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TikTok chief faces pivotal hearing in Congress amid US crackdown

TikTok’s chief government Shou Zi Chew will face assaults on a number of fronts when he testifies earlier than Congress on Thursday, in an look that can assist to find out the social media app’s future within the US.

Bipartisan calls to ban the platform have grown over fears it may very well be utilized by the Chinese language Communist celebration for espionage or propaganda functions. Nevertheless, Chew will inform the Home of Representatives power and commerce committee that TikTok’s mother or father firm ByteDance, primarily based in Beijing, is “not an agent of China”, in keeping with ready remarks launched prematurely of the listening to.

ByteDance has additionally been requested by the Committee on International Funding in the US (Cfius), an inter-agency panel that evaluates international funding, to promote its stake in TikTok within the US in an effort to distance it from Beijing. This got here even after it spent about $2bn on a partnership with Oracle designed to safeguard information and content material from Chinese language affect.

“TikTok’s mother or father firm, ByteDance, was based by Chinese language entrepreneurs, however has advanced into a worldwide enterprise since its founding,” Chew will say, including that TikTok has not shared and wouldn’t share information on its 150mn US customers with China.

Whether or not these calls for come to a head will hinge partially on how Chew, a former Goldman Sachs banker from Singapore, handles questioning from lawmakers on the corporate’s hyperlinks to Beijing. They may even voice different considerations in regards to the app, together with whether or not it’s protected for minors and has sufficient moderation processes.

Shou Zi Chew’s look earlier than a congressional listening to on Thursday might assist decide TikTok’s future within the US © Bryan van der Beek/Bloomberg

Forward of the listening to, TikTok has made a frantic public relations push. This has included inviting to Washington sure creators, a lot of whom make livelihoods promoting on behalf of manufacturers to their giant followings on the platform, to assist foyer politicians towards a ban, in keeping with a report by The Data that TikTok confirmed.

On Wednesday, greater than 20 creators held a press convention on the Capitol grounds with Jamaal Bowman, a Democratic Home member, to protest towards any ban. The New York consultant has emerged as one of many platform’s few allies on Capitol Hill.

Surrounded by influencers holding indicators with slogans equivalent to “Preserve TikTok” and “My small enterprise thrives on TikTok”, Bowman mentioned Republicans had created “a Purple Scare round China”. He mentioned “it poses about the identical risk that firms like Fb and Instagram, and YouTube and Twitter, pose.”

Jamaal Bowman speaking at a pro-TikTok rally
Jamaal Bowman leads a rally to defend TikTok on the US Capitol on Wednesday © AP

In current weeks members of the corporate’s UK press workforce have additionally been flown to Washington for preparations forward of the Congress look. One particular person acquainted with the preparations mentioned the corporate was throwing all the things at Chew’s private efficiency. “They’re very involved in regards to the banning of TikTok, and suppose it might go both method,” the particular person mentioned.

However, TikTok’s critics remained sceptical earlier than the listening to.

“Whereas I admire Mr Chew’s willingness to reply questions earlier than Congress, TikTok’s lack of transparency, repeated obfuscations, and misstatements of reality have severely undermined the credibility of any statements by TikTok workers, together with Mr Chew,” mentioned Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the Senate choose committee on intelligence.

Warner is among the lead sponsors of a brand new White Home-backed invoice that may give the administration new powers to ban Chinese language apps that pose safety threats, together with TikTok.


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