TikTok CEO Show Chew faced Congress on Thursday. Lawmakers showed concerns over data protection policy, the app’s ties with China and the safety of young users.

On Thursday, Tiktok CEO Shou Chew faced lawmakers in the USA, who expressed their concerns regarding the app’s user data protection policy and its connection with its Chinese parent company and by extension, the Chinese government. 


The marathon hearing lasted for 5 hours. During this, Congress relentlessly asked questions while Chew was able to satisfyingly answer only some of them. 

image source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Bipartisan pushback from Congress

In a rare moment of Bipartisan solidarity, the lawmakers of both the Republican and Democratic parties relentlessly grilled Chew on user safety and his app’s ties to China

The hearing was opened by Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’s demand that the app should be banned. Rodgers is the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rodgers on Thursday, during the hearing, directly addressed the American public, warning them that the app is “a weapon of the Chinese Communist Party” to spy and manipulate them. 

While speaking to Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, Chew answered that he has found no evidence of the app’s ties with the Chinese government. He said that they have not been asked to share user data and they have not provided any data. 

Chew’s repetitive claims of TikTok not being related to the foreign government were dismissed by the lawmakers. Anna Eshoo called his claims “preposterous”.

How much does ByteDance know? 

Chew’s attempts to separate Tiktok from the Chinese government failed before Congress as he confirmed that the USA users’ data is accessible to Chinese engineers of ByteDance, Tiktok’s parent company. Throughout, the hearing representatives of both parties came back to this point.

Image source: Jack Gruber/ USA Today

Chew’s apparent innocence was doubted again considering his old ties with ByteDance. He was the Chief Financial Officer of ByteDance before assuming his role as CEO of Tiktok. He also has shares in ByteDance. All of this did not sit well before the committee. 

Neal Dunn, Republican Rep. of Florida, directly asked if ByteDance had spied on the American public. This question came amidst several reports of the company accessing data, including the live location of journalists. 

How is TikTok different from BigTechs in the USA? 

In TikTok’s defence, Chew has brought up Project Texas. To ease concerns about its ties with China, TikTok is about to relocate all USA users’ data to servers located outside of China, through this project. However, considering that Project Texas is not fully operational yet, that defence didn’t hold ground for long. 

Image source:  Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Chew went on to question how TikTok’s handling of user data is any different than Big Techs of the USA, dropping names like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. 

In 2020, The Washington Post in collaboration with a private researcher tried to look for any mishandling of user data by TikTok. They concluded that the app does not seem to collect any more data than any other mainstream Big Tech companies. 

Concerns about the safety of young TikTok users

Lawmakers also showed their concerns about the safety of young TikTok users. Democratic Rep. of New Jersey, Frank Pallone said that research has shown that the TikTok algorithm has recommended videos to children that can cause them emotional distress, “including videos promoting suicide, self-harm and eating disorders.”

Republican Rep. of Florida, Gus Bilikaris criticised the lack of content moderation saying to Chew, “Your technology is literally leading to death.”

Chew said that his children do not use TikTok when questioned by Democratic Rep. Nanette Barragán. He clarified that Singapore, where his children live, does not have the version of the app meant for children below 13. He also said that he would let them use the app if they were in the USA, where the said version is available. 

Image source: Evelyn Hockstein/ Reuters

TikTok’s spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter called the hearing a “political grandstanding that failed to acknowledge the real solution already underway.” According to CNN, Chew had spent last week in multi-hour sessions preparing for the hearing. However, Thursday did not go as they would have intended. 


Studying English Honours right now. Interested in cinema, literature, music and theatre. Passionate about world politics, gender rights and writing. Aspires to be a full time writer.


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