Key events

Members of the committee have cited a Wall Street Journal report that indicates China would oppose a forced sale of TikTok.

“China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday that a sale or divestiture of TikTok would involve exporting technology and had to be approved by the Chinese government,” the article reads.

Rep. Michael Burgess said despite Chew’s assertions, China seems to believe its in control of TikTok and its software.

Chew said that while TikTok is not available in mainland China, the founders of ByteDance are Chinese and they work with Chinese employees just like many companies around the world.

Burgess has asked whether anyone from ByteDance “directly provide input, help or instruction for your testimony today”. Chew said he prepared for this hearing with his team in DC.

As a reminder, ByteDance is TikTok’s parent company.

Rep. Pallone said that he doesn’t believe Project Texas is sufficient and that the CCP will still be able to access data.

Now he’s asking about some of TikTok’s financials including how much money the company makes off of targeted ads. Chew refuses to share it because the company is private and thus its financials are also private.

“My concern here is primarily about the privacy issue the fact that TikTok is making all kinds of money by gathering private information about Americans…and then they sell it,” Pallone said, bringing up the privacy legislation he and Rodgers are pushing. “Would you commit to not selling data to anyone?”

Chew said the company doesn’t sell data to data brokers, Pallone says he is talking about selling or sharing data to anyone. Chew said he’ll get back to him on the details.

Chew said the company is committed to being transparent about data they collect and that he doesn’t believe the company collects any more data than any other tech platform. Pallone said that he’s not his point: He knows all tech companies collect data he doesn’t think they should and wants to see if Tiktok would commit to being a good actor and stop collecting data.

Rep. Rodgers asked Chew whether he has regular contact with various executives at Bytedance. He said he was in regular contact with the parent company’s CEO.

“All of these individuals work or are affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party and are at the highest levels of leadership of Bytedance,” Rodgers responded. “A company where you previously served as CFO and where you regularly communicate with the CEO.”

Shou Zi Chew, TikTok CEO, is beginning his testimony with an emphasis on his Singaporean heritage. He has tried this strategy before in a letter to lawmakers when he first took over the company. TikTok is run by a Singaporean based in Singapore, he wrote in that letter, and not beholden to the Chinese government.

Chew is also emphasizing that the company’s 150 million users in the US use the platform for various purposes that includes educational videos.

To address the lawmakers’ national security concerns, Chew is talking about Project Texas – an effort to move all US data to domestic servers. He said the company is deleting all user data that is backed up to servers outside the US, and that it should all be deleted later this year.

”Trust is about actions we take, we have to earn your trust with decisions we make…the potential security, privacy…concerns are not unique to us. We believe what’s needed are clear transparent rules that address all tech companies,” Chew said.

He ends with this: “There are more than 150 million users who love our platform and we know we have a responsibility to protect them which is why I am making the following commitments to you and all our users:

1) We will keep safety, particularly for teenagers as a top priority for us.
2) We will firewall protected US data from unwanted foreign access
3) TikTok will remain a place for free expression and not be manipulated by any government
4) We will be transparent and we will give access to third-party independent monitors to remain accountable for our commitments.”

Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is focused more on the spread of misinformation on TikTok, and the platform’s impact on teen mental health. He’s also taking this opportunity to speak to urge the passage of a bill that would create a federal privacy law that would reign in all of Big Tech’s data-collection practices.

Good morning, the hearing has started.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House energy and commerce committee, spoke passionately about her concerns with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance. The main thrust of her argument is that TikTok poses a “grave threat” from foreign influence on American life. She claims that China requires companies to allow the government to access its data, by design.

Rodgers tells Chew that he has to not just answer to Congress but also to the American people.

TikTok CEO to begin testimony shortly

Good morning and welcome to our liveblog of today’s interrogation of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew by US Congress members.

The panel, convened by the House committee on energy and commerce, will begin at 10am ET and is titled TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy And Protect Children From Online Harms.

This marks the first appearance from a TikTok chief executive before US lawmakers. It comes as the political storm surrounding the China-owned social media platform intensifies, with the Biden administration threatening to ban the app entirely in the US.

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has long faced criticisms over the data it holds on US users – data that lawmakers fear could fall into the hands of the Chinese government.

According to prepared statements shared in advance, Chew is anticipated to insist that TikTok has never, and would never, share US user data with the Chinese government, nor let the state manipulate what content is shown on the platform.

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew said.

Stay tuned for more updates as the hearing gets under way.

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