S’porean TikTok CEO Testifies Before US Congress, Addresses Questions About Data Privacy & User Safety

Singaporean TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi Testifies Before US Congress On 23 Mar

Singaporean TikTok CEO Chew Shou Zi was intensely grilled on Thursday (23 Mar) during a United States (US) Congress hearing.

During the five-hour session, US lawmakers probed areas of concern such as data privacy and user safety.

Source: @NewsBFM on Twitter

Speaking with a distinct Singaporean accent, Mr Chew assured members of the committee that he isn’t aware of any request from the Chinese government asking to access US users’ data.

He also outlined efforts the company employs to identify and remove controversial material on the platform.

Singaporean TikTok CEO addresses data privacy concerns before US Congress

On Thursday (23 Mar), Mr Chew testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in a 4.5-hour hearing.

Some lawmakers had called for the ban of the Chinese-owned social media app in the US, citing concerns over data privacy and content moderation.

Addressing the first concern, Mr Chew stated that he has seen “no evidence” to suggest that the Chinese government has accessed or requested access to US users’ data.

He elaborated by saying that TikTok does not “promote or remove content at the request of the Chinese government”.

Mr Chew also brought up the US$1.5 billion (S$1.99 billion) Project Texas, which seeks to create a “firewall that seals off protected user data from unauthorised foreign access”.

TikTok entered a contract with Texas-headquartered company Oracle under the ongoing initiative, ensuring that

American data is stored on American soil by an American company, overseen by American personnel.

However, Mr Chew stated that Project Texas is not complete and that “legacy US data” is still in the process of being deleted in Virginia and Singapore. They expect to complete the process by this year.

Video of gun firing with threats to Congress shown during hearing

Lawmakers also highlighted TikTok’s alleged failure to moderate content that contains untruths and harmful messaging.

At one point during the hearing, Republican Representative Kat Cammack played a TikTok video that showed a gun firing with a threat directed at the Committee.

The Representative pointed out that the video was posted on 10 Feb. However, TikTok has yet to remove it even after 41 days. She asked Mr Chew,

You expect us to believe that you are capable of maintaining the data privacy and security of 150 million Americans when you can’t even protect the people in this room?

Another member of the Committee highlighted concerns over the ‘blackout challenge’, which involves participants getting choked.

The member referenced the tragic death of a 10-year-old girl from Pennsylvania — who died after attempting the challenge — and accused TikTok of promoting such videos.

Congressmen seemingly merciless during hearing

Despite his ability to remain calm in the hot seat, The Straits Times reported that Mr Chew was seemingly unable to convince the congressmen that TikTok doesn’t pose a “national security threat” to the US.

The lawmakers apparently rushed through their questions, expecting straightforward answers. They then declared it hard to find Mr Chew credible when he could not respond in such a manner.

To this, Mr Chew denied their statements, asserting that, “Congressman, you have given me no time to answer your questions.”

The way the hearing unfolded has since drawn much criticism from attendees who included TikTok content creators.

It’s unclear what steps the congress will take next or what legislative changes they’ll make to work towards banning TikTok.

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Featured image adapted from @NewsBFM on Twitter

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