CEO Shou Chew will testify before Congress on Thursday, with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee set to raise their concerns about how much access the Chinese government has to user data, as well as how much influence the Chinese Communist Party has over it.
TikTok has consistently denied such allegations, though this has not stopped the US and other countries from banning the app from government and military-issued devices.
Some countries like India have even issued a nationwide ban of TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps as a result of national security worries.
With more than 150 million TikTok users in the US, many will be following Thursday’s proceedings closely to see if Biden’s administration follows India by banning TikTok.
You can follow all the latest news and updates in our live coverage here.
TikTok influencers address potential ban of app in Washington DC
22:12 , Graeme Massie
How can TikTok avoid a ban?
20:00 , Anthony Cuthbertson
The US government is reportedly demanding that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance sells its US business in order to avoid a complete ban.
If not, the bill mentioned in the previous post would allow the secretary of Commerce to prevent any foreign companies operating in the US if they are deemed to pose a threat to national security.
“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” TikTok CEO Shou Chew will say during his testimony on Thursday.
His pre-submitted written statement claims: “TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, US user data with the Chinese government. Nor would TikTok honour such a request if one were ever made.”
He will also defend TikTok’s handling of US user data by detailing the $1.5 billion ‘Project Texas’. The process involves hosting and routing all US data through the Oracle Cloud.
How would a TikTok ban in the US actually work?
18:52 , Anthony Cuthbertson
The Biden administration is currently in the proces of trying to pass the RESTRICT ACT, which lawyers say would allow the US government to circumvent speech protections embedded in existing law.
But how would a TikTok ban actually be implemented?
US officials are yet to give any firm details about how a total ban in the US would actually be implemented, but it would likely involve Apple and Google removing it from their app stores and internet service providers blocking access to the site.
There are always ways around such bans – most likely any VPN would be able to circumvent any restrictions – but when the same thing happened in India, most users just moved to copycat short-form content set up by the likes of YouTube and Facebook.
TikTok ban: Charting the app’s controversial rise to the top
17:38 , Anthony Cuthbertson
TikTok was the most downloaded app in the world last year, beating its closest rival Instagram by more than 100 million downloads.
This comes despite a complete ban of TikTok being imposed in India in 2020, where close to 200 million people used the app. Other countries have also imposed bans and partial bans, including Europe and US, as this map shows:
You can see all the charts and read the full story of TikTok’s controversial rise to the top here:
TikTok ban warning from CEO Shou Chew
16:26 , Anthony Cuthbertson
Here’s what Shou Zi Chew had to say ahead of tomorrow’s Congress hearing:
Our CEO, Shou Chew, shares a special message on behalf of the entire TikTok team to thank our community of 150 million Americans ahead of his congressional hearing later this week.
♬ original sound - TikTok
His warning that “all 150 million” US users could be banned has already generated dozens of ‘duets’ from TikTok users, with the majority of them appearing to offer their support both for Chew and TikTok.
While TikTok’s official account, which the video was posted to, has close to 70 million followers and 288 million likes, Chew’s personal account has just 17,000 followers and 68,000 likes. He could see that change in the coming days, with his appearance before Congress set to put his name on headlines around the world.
15:01 , Anthony Cuthbertson
Shou Chew has less than 24 hours to wait before he appears before Congress at 10am local time (2pm GMT) on Thursday, 23 March.
He has already posted a TikTok asking US users what they want their elected representatives to know about “what you love” about TikTok.
“I’ll be testifying before Congress this week to share all that we’re doing to protect Americans using the app and deliver on our mission to inspire creativity and to bring joy,” he said in the post published to TikTok’s main account.
His own account has been remarkably quiet considering he’s the boss of the app, having posted less than a couple of dozen times in its history. His low profile is in keeping with his public persona, which he has managed to keep extremely private compared to the heads of other tech giants.
There’s only six sentences on his Wikipedia page, but if you want to find out more you can read this:
Hello and welcome...
14:43 , Anthony Cuthbertson
to The Independent’s coverage of TikTok and the looming US ban. We’ll be bringing you all the latest news and developments as CEO Shou Chew prepares to face questions from lawmakers in Washington on Thursday.
His appearance could prove pivotal to whether or not the Biden Administration decides to push forward with a complete ban of the hugely popular app, having already blocked it from devices used by government workers and military personnel. TikTok was the most downloaded app in the US last year, with any action set to impact more than 150 million users.