The Morning After: TikTok CEO says its owner is 'not an agent of China’

He wants to address ‘misconceptions’ about the app.

Chris Helgren / reuters

TikTok CEO Shou Chew is preparing to tell lawmakers that banning it will damage the US economy. “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” Chew said in written remarks released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee before today's hearing on TikTok. The hearing, Chew’s first Congressional appearance, comes when the stakes couldn’t be higher for the company.

US officials recently told Bytedance TikTok could be banned in the US if the company doesn’t divest itself. Chew detailed the app’s safety features, including Project Texas, TikTok’s billion-dollar effort to lock down users' data. “Earlier this month, we began the process of deleting historical protected US user data stored in non-Oracle servers; we expect this process to be completed later this year,” Chew writes. “Under this structure, there is no way for the Chinese government to access it or compel access to it.”

Lawmakers will likely grill Chew in depth about TikTok’s ties to ByteDance and China, and whether they can trust the company to protect US users. How will the hearing fare? Congress has a track history of completely misunderstanding the underpinnings of tech companies, whether that’s Iowa’s Steve King complaining to the head of Google about iPhones, Senator Orrin Hatch not knowing Facebook makes most of its money from advertising or the iconic claim from then-Alaska Senator Ted Stevens that the internet is a series of tubes. Who will embarrass themselves this time?

– Mat Smith

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