The Chinese social media app is once again facing trouble as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew sat down for a long four-and-a-half-hour questioning with the US lawmakers on Thursday.
Nearly three years after the previous Trump administration threatened to ban TikTok in America if the company does not sell to American investors, the social media application is once again facing trouble. On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced four-and-a-half hours of questioning with US lawmakers for the future of this Chinese social media application. The most surprising thing from this session was to see the Democrats and Republicans being united. The showdown was nothing short of a legal marathon where the CEO was bombarded with question after question and here are the top highlights of the congressional hearing.
China’s ByteDance engineers have access to US data
In the entire session, Chew kept talking about “project Texas”. This project will store all the essential data in the US which will then be placed under the watch of an American firm called Oracle. However, this “project Texas” is not fully operational yet. So as of now, Chew confirmed that the engineers at the parent company of TikTok, ByteDance have access to the American data. Chew said at one point, “We rely on global interoperability, Chinese engineers have access to data”.
It was this crucial admission that the politicians kept coming back to as they stated multiple times that if the Chinese engineers can have access to the American data, it will not be long before the Chinese government gets access to that too. On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the government does not ask companies to provide data that is located in other countries.
Shou Zi Chew has shares in ByteDance
When initially asked, Chew did not want to say whether he owned any shares in ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, but his attempt to distance TikTok from ByteDance was least successful. Then pressed by the US politicians, he eventually said that he owned shares but tried to downplay the entire connection. Needless to say, Chew used to be the chief financial officer of ByteDance.
Chew’s children are not allowed to use TikTok
Congresswoman Nanette Barragán asked Chew if his children use TikTok and as a reply he said they don’t. He then went ahead and said his children live in Singapore where the country’s version of the application for younger children becomes available only when they are legally 13. After a bit more questioning Chew said that the children’s version of TikTok is available in the US, however, he would not let his children use it either if they were in America.
Cambridge Analytica’s name resurfaced again!
In the entire hearing, Chew did not push or fight back that often but there were some moments. During one moment while being quizzed about user data and TikTok, Chew said, “With all due respect, American companies don’t have a great track record with data … Just look at Facebook and Cambridge Analytica”, a witty comment yet a reasonable one.
TikTok has apparently been spending millions of dollars in Lobbying, but from this hearing, looks like it is not enough.