TikTok CEO refused to provide direct answer on Chinese influence

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TikTok CEO, Shou Chew, has reignited concerns and debates about the platform’s ties to the Chinese government. He refused to answer if Beijing has any influence over the wildly popular social media app. Chew tried to steer away from the question despite being repeatedly pressed to answer with a yes or no. This comes just as a nationwide ban on TikTok in the US looms large.

TikTok CEO refused to answer if the Chinese government can influence TikTok

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that could ban TikTok in the US. The American lawmakers have security concerns because its parent company ByteDance is based in China. If passed into law, the firm will have to either sell the US arm of TikTok or shut down the app in the country. App stores will no longer host the app or allow in-app transactions, blocking access to the app.

Shortly after the bill passed the House, TikTok’s CEO said the legislation was unconstitutional and built on misinformation. He claimed that the user data is safe and “free from outside manipulation.” He vowed to challenge the bill and urged users to make their voices heard. “Protect your constitutional rights,” Chew said in a video addressed to TikTok’s 170 million US users.

Amid a looming ban, a FOX Business correspondent asked Chew to clarify if the Chinese government can influence TikTok. “Mr. Chew, can you say with 100% certainty that the Chinese government does not have any influence over TikTok?” correspondent Hillary Vaughn asked repeatedly (nine times). However, the TikTok CEO refused to provide a direct answer. “Project Texas over the last three, four years,” Chew said.

He was referring to the firm’s initiative to store the data of TikTok’s US users within the country. Austin-based software company Oracle would store and oversee the data, ensuring that the Chinese government has no access to it. While the firm has repeated this statement many times, Chew’s evasive response to the question has fueled concerns that ByteDance has some sort of ties with Beijing.

CEO says TikTok is owned by global investors

Chew did his best to avoid answering the question about Chinese influence over TikTok. He talked about Project Texas and ByteDance ownership. “Bytedance is owned by global investors, and about the majority of our investors are global investors,” Chew said. “And then the rest is owned by the founders. So there’s no CCP [Chinese Communist Party—the unopposed ruling party of China] ownership.” Time will tell whether that proves enough for TikTok to avoid a ban in the US.

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