- TikTok CEO Shou Chew appeared before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday.
- The exec tried to defend his company as members of both parties have pushed for a ban or sale of its app.
- Chew’s remarks were often cut short as Congress members pressed him for “yes” or “no” responses.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appeared before Congress on Thursday to defend his company against a potential ban or forced sale in the US.
The hearing quickly devolved into a bloodbath of “yes or no” questions from politicians on both sides of the aisle, several of whom appeared uninterested in hearing full responses from the executive. Officials attacked TikTok on several fronts, from how it manages access to US user data to how it guards young users from viewing inappropriate content.
“Welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress,” Republican Rep. Earl LeRoy “Buddy” Carter said, addressing Chew as “Mr. Crew” at several points during the hearing. “I don’t speak for everyone, but there are those on this committee, including myself, who believe that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in psychological warfare through TikTok to deliberately influence US children.”
Chew’s responses to questions were often cut short as members of Congress asked for shorter “yes” or “no” responses.
Meanwhile, when asked specific questions such as whether TikTok would commit to not selling its data to anyone, Chew often responded with variations of “I can get back to you.” At times, he pushed back, calling claims like spying a “mischaracterization” of the company’s practices.
Wedbush’s senior analyst Daniel Ives described the hearing as a “disaster” moment for TikTok “that will likely catalyze more calls by lawmakers and the White House to look to ban TikTok within the US if the company does not look to spin-off and force a sale from Chinese parent ByteDance.”
A TikTok spokesperson described the frequent cut-offs to Shou’s responses as a missed opportunity. “He came prepared to answer their questions and, unfortunately, with few exceptions wasn’t given the opportunity to do so,” the spokesman told Insider.
Chew’s appearance before Congress, scheduled in January, was viewed by many as a critical moment for the embattled social-entertainment company.
In the days leading up to the committee hearing, TikTok helped arrange a press conference with Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman that it described as a push “in support of free expression.” The company sent dozens of TikTok creators to Washington to help advocate on behalf of the app.
Federal and state lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns that Beijing-based ByteDance could be compelled to give the Chinese Communist Party access to TikTok’s US user data via its National Intelligence Law, or that the Chinese government could pressure TikTok to show or restrict content for American users to suit its own interests.
During Thursday’s testimony, Chew frequently pointed to the company’s US data-management initiative Project Texas as the solution to guarding Americans’ personal information. But the executive did not specify how far along the company was in its implementation of Project Texas, nor how much US protected data was currently guarded within its US Data Security division.