Shou Zi Chew, TikTok CEO, to Appear Before U.S. Lawmakers Tomorrow

Johana Bhuiyan, the Guardian:

Shou Zi Chew is not a prolific TikToker. The 40-year-old CEO of the Chinese-owned app has just 23 posts and 17,000 followers to his name – paltry by his own platform’s standards.


On Thursday Chew will appear before a US congressional committee, answering to lawmakers’ concerns over the Chinese government’s access to US user data, as well as TikTok’s impact on the mental health of its younger user base. The stakes are high, coming amid a crackdown on TikTok in the US to Europe. In the past few months alone, the US has banned TikTok on federal government devices, following similar moves by multiple states’ governments, and the Biden administration has threatened a national ban unless its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, sells its shares.

Chew’s prepared remarks (PDF) are a mostly the kind of boilerplate stuff you would expect from a tech company CEO brought before lawmakers in the 2020s, albeit with the unique twist that he must defend TikTok against accusations it is a vessel for foreign espionage. And, as is common for these kinds of hearings, I expect little substantive questioning. However, I am anticipating someone will seize upon the last sentence in this paragraph:

Next, I want to address what we’re working on now. I know that there has been a lot of speculation about Project Texas recently based on media coverage. While conversations with the government are ongoing, our work on Project Texas has continued unabated. We are working hard every day to reach new milestones. For example, earlier this month, we began the process of deleting historical protected U.S. user data stored in non-Oracle servers; we expect this process to be completed later this year. When that process is complete, all protected U.S. data will be under the protection of U.S. law and under the control of the U.S.-led security team. Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access it or compel access to it.

One way to read this is that TikTok’s current structure does permit some amount of Chinese government access. This is contradicted later in the remarks — “[…] the inaccurate belief that TikTok’s corporate structure makes it beholden to the Chinese government or that it shares information about U.S. users with the Chinese government” — so I do not think this is some kind of telling slip. But if some representative wants to use their time to needle at the exact language of this statement, I am sure they will.