Looking to cut off a possible bipartisan bill that would ban TikTok in the U.S., the CEO of the platform, Shou Zi Chew, spoke to lawmakers today. The executive did admit to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that some China-based employees working for TikTok parent ByteDance might still have access to data from U.S. users. However, that access will end when the company’s Project Texas initiative begins.
TikTok’s Project Texas initiative is designed to prevent employees in China from accessing U.S. data
Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok
A TikTok spokesperson said today, “Since October of 2022, all new U.S. user data has been stored exclusively in the Oracle Cloud Environment, with protected data fully out of reach of any foreign government. That data is managed exclusively by U.S. Data Security—a TikTok subsidiary made up of Americans, led and located in America—whose sole focus is to protect U.S. national security interests by securing U.S. user data and preventing outside manipulation of our systems.”
Rep. Earl Carter, (R-Ga.), asked Chew about TikTok challenges many of which are dangerous and life-threatening. One, the “Blackout Challenge,” tries to get TikTok users to strangle themselves and several children have died. Lawsuits have been filed.
Rep. Carter asked TikTok’s CEO, “Why is it that TikTok consistently fails to identify and moderate these kinds of harmful videos? Why is it that you can’t control this?” Chew responded by saying, “This is a real industry challenge and we’re working very hard.” Carter replied, “We’re not talking about the industry. We’re talking about TikTok.”
Lawmakers blast TikTok’s CEO
During the hearing, Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fl) played for attendees a TikTok video that showed an animated gun firing bullets targeting committee chair Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa). Cammack chastised Chew by saying, “Your own community guidelines state that you have a firm stance against enabling violence on or off TikTok. This video has been up for 41 days.” Chew confirmed after a break that the video had been removed during the hearing.
The executive answered, “Congresswoman, I have not seen that memo.” That led Cammack to say, “You cannot answer that question.”
TikTok is still one of the most popular apps on iOS and Android. On the latter platform alone the app has been installed over 1 billion times.