Tiktok: TikTok CEO on India’s ban on app: ‘Lot of risks are hypothetical and theoretical’

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WASHINGTON: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on Thursday (March 23) faced nearly 6 hours of hostile questioning from the US Congress members over concerns about the Chinese-owned social media giant’s potential influence from the Chinese government and national security risks. Chew repeatedly stressed that TikTok does not share user data with the Chinese government and does not pose a risk to its 150 million users in the US.
In a bipartisan effort to rein in the power of a major social media platform, Republican and Democratic lawmakers hurled questions on a host of topics, including TikTok’s content moderation practices, how the company plans to secure American data from Beijing, and its spying on journalists.
However, during the hearing, US lawmaker Debbie Lesko cited India and other countries that have banned TikTok due to privacy and security concerns. “This (TikTok) is a tool which is ultimately under the control of the Chinese government and screams out with national security concerns Mr Chew, how can all of these countries and our FBI director be wrong, asked Lesko.
“I think a lot of risks pointed out are hypothetical and theoretical risks. I have not seen any evidence,” Chew responded.
India imposed a nationwide ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps in 2020, which was made permanent in January 2021. Lesko also referenced a recent Forbes article that reported how data of Indian citizens who used TikTok remained accessible to employees at the company and its Beijing-based parent.
Chew denied these allegations and said that the company has rigorous data access protocols, but some lawmakers were not convinced. They pushed back on TikTok’s attempt to portray itself as a “benign company” and expressed concerns that the Beijing communist government could still control and influence the company’s actions.
The ban on TikTok is already in place on federal government devices, including military devices, and more states are banning it on state government devices. While China has stated that it would not oppose any forced sale of TikTok, any sale involving the export of Chinese technology must be approved by the Chinese government.
In 2019, the Guardian reported that TikTok was instructing its moderators to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square and included images unfavorable to the Chinese government. The platform says it has since changed its moderation practices.
TikTok is owned by Chinese tech company Bytedance.
(With inputs from agencies)

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