So how did TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s appearance before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce go at present?
Properly, it’s exhausting to say – amid the common smattering of accusations framed as questions, and obscure queries that appeared to misconceive how the web itself works, Chew largely appeared to offer rigorously worded solutions, whereas warding off something too troublesome by saying that he’d look into it.
In an important listening to, which may determine the way forward for the app within the US, Chew offered a passionate protection of the platform, and sought to deal with US regulatory issues, with the important thing concern being the potential of American consumer knowledge being shared with the Chinese language Authorities.
Chew sought to dispel this notion, whereas TikTok additionally posted a public assertion on this:
4/ TikTok will stay a platform at no cost expression and won’t be manipulated by any authorities.
— TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) March 23, 2023
Chew was pressed on varied facets, referring to TikTok’s previous actions on censorship (i.e. whether or not it censors content material important of the CCP), its accessing of US consumer knowledge to trace journalists, it’s algorithm, youth security facets, and extra.
For essentially the most half, Chew was in a position to navigate the assorted questions with out making any definitive commitments. However on the similar time, his look, by various accounts, wasn’t overly assuring, or convincing, with regard to profitable over US senators.
Specifically, when pressed on whether or not ByteDance workers have spied on US residents up to now, Chew deferred, saying that ‘I do not assume spying is the correct technique to describe it’. Chew additionally questioned the monitor document of American corporations on consumer knowledge, when requested a couple of potential divestment from ByteDance – which looks like a good comparability, however is unlikely to resonate with US officers.
However the important thing assertion of Chew’s look was this:
“The underside line is that this – American knowledge is saved on American soil by an American firm overseen by American personnel.”
This was from Chew’s pre-prepared testimony, through which Chew defined that ‘Challenge Texas’, TikTok’s multi-billion greenback plan to separate US consumer knowledge from its Chinese language guardian firm, will safe US consumer knowledge within the US, making it fully inaccessible to China-based workers.
TikTok’s hope is that this effort shall be sufficient to guarantee US regulators that American customers are secure.
However then once more, when pressed on one other key level, as as to if TikTok would ever take into account promoting consumer knowledge, Chew refused to offer a agency dedication, noting, as a substitute, that he would search additional clarification earlier than offering a solution.
On the finish of this, it nonetheless stays troublesome to find out the place TikTok is positioned, with regard to the potential of a full ban within the US. Even worse, the Chinese language Authorities has as soon as once more shared its opposition to the forced sell-off of the app, which signifies that if TikTok is banned by the US Authorities, a sell-off into native palms is probably not an possibility.
Which, as soon as once more, underlines the truth that TikTok’s future hinges on how US politicians understand Chew’s testimony.
Was he convincing sufficient in his explanations? Has TikTok carried out sufficient to guarantee policymakers of its intentions? Will Challenge Texas be sufficient to show separation of entry inside guardian firm ByteDance?
Actually, the subsequent steps are probably out of Chew’s palms both approach, because it nonetheless feels just like the rising tensions between the US and China would be the key determinate. Final month’s spy balloon incident raised the hackles of these involved about Chinese language interference, weighing additional towards TikTok, whereas this week’s meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin has additional stoked issues.
On this respect, it appears like TikTok is caught within the center amidst a much wider disagreement between the 2 nations, and it one other incident of this sort may find yourself being the factor that makes or breaks TikTok within the US.
Any additional indication of Chinese language defiance, particularly towards the US, may drive the White Home to behave. So whereas Chew could have carried out his greatest, perhaps there’s nothing he may do throughout the broader context.