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TikTok CEO defends the application and its security measures before US congressmen

The executive president of TikTok faced harsh questions on Thursday from lawmakers convinced the Chinese-owned short-video app should be banned as a potential threat to US national security.

“TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path of more control, more surveillance and more manipulation. Their platform should be banned,” Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said at the start of the hearing.

The testimony of Shou Zi Chew before the US Congress culminated a week of actions by the Chinese company aimed at convincing Americans and their legislators that the application creates economic value and supports freedom of expression.

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TikTokwhich has more than 150 million US users, has faced harsh accusations that its users’ data would be shared with the Chinese government and that it fails to adequately protect children from harm.

The firm, owned by bytedancesaid he has spent more than $1.5 billion on what he calls rigorous enforcement efforts data security under the name of “Texas project“, which currently has nearly 1,500 full-time employees and is contracted with Oracle to store the data of US users of TikTok. It also states that it rigorously filters content that could harm children.

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“ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew told the House committee.

“We believe that what is needed are clear and transparent rules that apply broadly to all technology companies: ownership is not at the core of addressing these concerns,” he added.

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TikTok CEO defends the application and its security measures before US congressmen
Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok. Photo: Reuters

At the hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Congresswoman Diana DeGette asked Chew what he was doing TikTok to prevent the spread of misinformation on the platform.

“They have current controls, but they’re not working to keep this information away from primarily young people, but also from Americans in general,” DeGette said.

Chew assured that the company is investing in content moderation and Artificial Intelligence to limit this type of content.

TikTok CEO defends the application and its security measures before US congressmen

The vast majority of our users come to our platform to be entertained with safe content, but there are people who spread dangerous misinformation and we have to take it very seriously,” Chew said.

DeGette said that the shares of TikTok they were not enough. “They just gave me general statements that they’re investing, that they’re concerned, that they’re working. That’s not enough for me. That’s not enough for America’s parents,” she said.

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The committee chair, Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, opened the hearing by saying: “TikTok It collects just about every piece of data imaginable, from where people are located to what they type and copy, who they talk to, biometric data, and much more.”

“We don’t trust that TikTok never embrace American values: values ​​of freedom, human rights and innovation,” adding that the Chinese Communist Party “is capable of using (TikTok) as a tool to manipulate the United States as a whole.”

Chew, who began his testimony by speaking of his own Singaporean roots, stated that “we do not promote or remove content at the request of the Chinese government,” adding that “it is our commitment to this committee and to all of our users that we will keep (TikTok) free from any manipulation by any government”.

The top Democrat on the panel, Frank Pallone, indicated that TikTok “is going to continue to collect data, it is going to continue to sell data (…) and continue to be under the aegis of the Communist Party.”

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In a particularly awkward moment, Chew acknowledged that some Americans’ personal data was still subject to Chinese law, but insisted that would soon change.

Congressmen also confronted Chew with dire examples of young users promoting suicide or dangerous exercise that has proven fatal.

“Their technology is literally leading to death,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis, gesturing to a family in the audience whose son was killed in a rail tragedy that relatives say was related to TikTok.

TikTok is under enormous pressure in Western countries: Government officials in the US, UK and Canada, as well as the European Commission, were forced to remove the app from their devices.

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british broadcaster BBC advised his staff on Tuesday to remove TikTok from their phones.

The most serious threat comes from the United States, whose government has issued an ultimatum for TikTok to be removed from Chinese ownership or face an outright ban in the country.

Warning from Beijing

Before the hearing, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce he said he would “strongly oppose” a forced sale, stressing that any sale or spin-off of TikTok would require approval from Chinese authorities.

“Forcing the sale of TikTok (…) will seriously undermine the confidence of investors from various countries, including China, to invest in the United States,” added Shu Jueting, a spokesman for the aforementioned portfolio.

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A sale of the app, even with the agreement of all parties, would be very difficult, as separating the powerful algorithm from “TikTok and ByteDance would be like a conjoined twin operation,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told AFP.

On Wednesday, a dozen teenagers, teachers and business owners addressed Congress to voice their opposition to a veto of the app and highlighted the benefits of TikTok in their lives and livelihoods.

“Are there other platforms? Absolutely, I’m on them, but none have the reach of TikTok“soap entrepreneur @countrylather2020 told her 70,000 followers in a video recorded just after arriving in Washington.

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TikTok CEO defends the application and its security measures before US congressmen

TikTok CEO defends the application and its security measures before US congressmen

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