Yesterday, TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew, testified in front of a skeptical Congress amidst recent U.S. concerns regarding Chinese control over user data, his argument being that the app poses no danger to national security. The lengthy testimony lasted over five hours, but we’re here to help break it down for you with 5 key takeaways that we think you should know about TikTok’s fate in the U.S.
During his testimony, Chew detailed TikTok’s elaborately thought out plan to transfer all U.S. users’ TikTok data domestically via a plan known as “Project Texas.” Project Texas entails TikTok to move or delete all qualifying data by the end of the year, which will be done in coordination with a U.S. based computer technology company. Oracle, the Texas-based company will be the third-party to monitor the relocation and removal of U.S. data. This plan will include an entire U.S.-based security team, which will allow the U.S government to regularly monitor the entirety of the operation. Project Texas also details a plan for building a firewall to then protect U.S. data from foreign access once all of the data has been successfully transferred. Congress remains skeptical of Project Texas, given the immense amount of data that needs to be moved in a promised tight timeline.
Chinese Government Meddling
Also during his testimony, Chew assured Congress that the Chinese government has not made any requests to have any access to U.S. data from the TikTok app. This remains one of Congress’ main concerns, as it is a matter of national security. Despite the reassurance from Chew, Congress is concerned that there isn’t a delineation between the public and private sectors in China, therefore, the government could theoretically have access to U.S. users data without formally requesting it from TikTok. This remains an important point of contention.
Bipartisan Congressional Support
It’s important to note that there is complete bipartisan agreement in Congress against TikTok. Republicans and Democrats alike are concerned about the potential access that China has to U.S. user data. Since bipartisan support is a rarity in Congress, it’s presence demonstrates the magnitude of concern for national security, and the passion that Congress has regarding the issue at hand.
Youth Safety Concerns
Throughout the testimony, Congress heavily criticized the way that TikTok has exacerbated mental health and safety concerns among young people. Their claims included, but were not limited to, the promotion of eating disorders, drug-use, and other unhealthy behavior that is exhibited among young people that are using the app frequently. Chew responded and argued that TikTok does not endorse or support any of the referenced behaviors, and such behaviors are not a product of, or the function of the app. Further, Chew explained that TikTok has launched features to combat any negative effects or messaging that may be targeted to young users, such as, the implementation of a time limit that young people can spend on the app. Such regulations were not adequate in the eyes of Congress.
Chew wouldn’t provide a strong opinion as to whether or not ByteDance should separate itself from TikTok and resell it to an American-owned company. Earlier this week, Chinese officials made it clear that they would not be willing to sell TikTok to an American company, meaning ByteDance would need to make the move themselves. Check out this article to learn more about TikTok vs. ByteDance, and the companies overall tie to the Chinese government. Chew was reluctant to share where he stands on the issue.
This testimony is only the beginning of the debate over the role that TikTok will play in the future of the United States. Want to prepare your brand and evaluate the role that TikTok plays in your media plan? We’re here to help.