TikTok and its CEO are fighting to save the app in the US

With a growing number of lawmakers raising national security concerns about TikTok’s ties to China, and some experts worried about the app’s impact on young people’s mental health, CNN is hosting a special program to dig into these issues. “CNN Prime Time: Is Tiktok’s Time Out?” Watch Thursday, March 23 at 9 p.m. ET.


At the Harvard Business Review conference earlier this month, where Administrators, professors and artists Appearing for talks on corporate leadership and emotional intelligence, Show Chew tried to save his company.

In his speech, TikTok CEO Chew said the social network would not provide US user data to the Chinese government and had never been asked to do so. Chew emphasized the steps TikTok has taken to protect US user data. And four separate times, Chew told the audience that the site’s mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy” to users.

The Harvard event was one of several media appearances Chew has made in recent weeks amid growing scrutiny of TikTok and himself. Chew is set to testify before a congressional committee for the first time on Thursday about TikTok’s consumer privacy and data protection practices, the sites’ impact on children and its ties to the Chinese Communist Party. group. Meanwhile, federal authorities are now demanding the app’s Chinese owners sell their stake in the social media platform, or risk facing a US ban on the app.

Chew, a Singaporean who has largely been out of the spotlight since acquiring TikTok in 2021, recently sat down for interviews with several American newspapers and highlighted the app’s wide reach in a video on the corporate TikTok account this week. He revealed that there are now more than 150 million users in the US.

“It’s almost half of America coming to connect, create, share, learn or have fun,” said Chew, wearing a hoodie and T-shirt like the other American tech executives in the clip. “It comes at a pivotal moment for us. Some politicians have started talking about banning TikTok, now it might take away TikTok from your 150 million people.

Chew’s high visibility appears to be part of a larger messaging campaign by TikTok to raise its profile in the US and remind voters — and their representatives — how vital the social network is to American culture.

A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday on the steps of the Capitol with dozens of social media creators, some of whom flew there via TikTok. The company pays for ads to a Beltway audience. And last week it released documentaries highlighting American small business owners who rely on the platform for their livelihoods.

Behind the scenes, there is also Mars He met Congress members And TikTok recently invited researchers and academics to its Washington, DC, offices to learn more about how it is working through its parent company ByteDance to address lawmakers’ concerns about its ties to China. Its parent company has stepped up federal lobbying, spending more than $5 million last year. Data monitored by OpenSecrets.

“It’s life or death for TikTok, from their perspective,” said Justin Sherman, CEO of Global Cyber ​​Strategies, a DC-based research and consulting firm. A $1.5 billion initiative to address lawmakers’ security concerns. “They throw everything they can at the problem.”

In a statement, TikTok spokesperson Jamal Brown said, “A US ban on TikTok will have a direct impact on the livelihoods of millions of Americans. Lawmakers debating TikTok in Washington need to hear directly from the people directly affected by their decisions.

For much of the past year, TikTok has been rolling out new features and policies to address privacy and security concerns that the Chinese government could gain access to US user data. Harmful to some young users.

TikTok recently set a daily screen time limit of one hour per account for users under the age of 18 by the social media giant to prevent teenagers from endlessly scrolling. It rolled out a feature aimed at giving users more information about why its powerful algorithm recommends certain videos. And the company promised more transparency to researchers.

In response to concerns about its parent company’s ties to China, TikTok has taken several steps to more clearly separate its US operations and user data from other parts of the company. This includes moving all of its US user data to Oracle’s cloud platform, where it says it hosts “100% US user traffic”.

The messaging campaign ramped up this week ahead of the trial. TikTok released updated social guidelines for content, which the company designed “based on our commitment to uphold human rights and aligned with international legal frameworks.” Chew reiterated TikTok’s independence from China.

“I understand that the concerns stem from the mistaken belief that TikTok’s corporate structure is attracting the attention of the Chinese government or sharing information about US users with the Chinese government,” Chew said in prepared comments ahead of testimony before Congress. “This is absolutely false.”

At the same time, TikTok is now betting on the strategy of U.S. tech companies, which have faced scrutiny for other reasons, to improve their impact on small businesses in the U.S., including the CEO’s prepared remarks and a Short documentaries It was released last week titled “TikTok Sparks Good”.

The series featured inspiring stories of American small business owners and creators. The first of the 60-second clips features a Mississippi soap producer who built his company on the app, and the second features an educator who quit his job to focus on sharing informational videos on TikTok. According to

“Because of TikTok, I reach millions of families who want to teach their children how to read,” says the educator.

Dozens of TikTok creators opposing the ban will hold a press conference on the Capitol grounds Wednesday evening with Congressman Jamal Bowman, a Democrat from New York. TikTok has fired some creators, the company confirmed to CNN. (The move was first reported.)

The list of expected attendees includes a disabled Asian American creator who uses the platform to fight disability, a small business owner from South Carolina who started a greeting card company through TikTok, and a chef from Ohio who built her bakery business through the app. Some creators have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers on TikTok.

Even with these efforts, Sherman expressed some skepticism about how promising the PR push would be, largely because of how divided Washington is right now.

“Not everyone wants a ban,” he said. “For some lawmakers, TikTok is taking all these steps to address security concerns.”

But for others it doesn’t move the needle. “Some lawmakers, obviously, what ads TikTok puts out, what promises it makes on its blog about freedom, data privacy … they see the risk of not being able to minimize the Chinese government’s impact on data access and/or content. They’re going to push for a complete ban.

“For the most part, TikTok’s lobbying efforts so far have been pretty ineffective,” said Lindsay Gorman, senior partner for emerging technologies at the German Marshall Fund’s Coalition for the Defense of Democracies and a former Biden administration adviser.

The problem is two-fold. First, even if TikTok takes steps to improve its security today, there is concern that, like Project Texas, it is always “one update away from becoming vulnerable.” Second, TikTok’s PR efforts in Washington won’t undo earlier moments when the company “shot itself in the foot” by making what it said were “false statements” to Congress, “and then revelations come out that show they were inaccurate.”

After the launch, Trump-era calls for a TikTok ban appeared to fade in Washington. BuzzFeed In 2021, it was reported that US user data was repeatedly accessed from China and “all found in China”. The details in the report contradicted comments a TikTok executive made before a Senate committee earlier that year, saying that a US-based security committee determines who can access US user data from China. Following the report, TikTok once again became a hot button issue in the nation’s capital.

But even as skepticism grew among US lawmakers, so did the app’s popularity in the country.

“I think TikTok’s strongest argument to date is its appeal to its creator user base,” Gorman said. But for some lawmakers with security concerns, the latest push “may be too late.”

In his TikTok video on Tuesday, Chew appealed directly to the app’s users. The CEO asked them to write in the comments section to share “what you want your elected representatives to know about what you love about TikTok.”

“You know something’s wrong when you have to show off the boss 😂,” captioned the clip, which has more than 50,000 likes.

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