Explained: Is TikTok about to be banned?

One of the world’s most popular social media apps could be gone in the US, if lawmakers have their way.

At a recent hearing in Washington, the CEO of TikTok spoke to Congress about the app, and concerns over security.

The five-hour grilling talked about TikTok’s ties to China, youth safety, and the ways the company manages sensitive data.

CEO Shou Zi Chew was asked outright if TikTok is a Chinese company.

In prepared statements shared in advance, he said the company has never, and will never, hand US data over to the Chinese government.

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.”

However, US President Joe Biden has demanded that the company sell its Chinese-owned shares, or face being banned entirely.

It’s a pledge that has bipartisan support.

Looking to address security concerns, the company has launched Project Texas, which it says will migrate all US data to domestic services.

“Trust is about actions we take, we have to earn your trust with decisions we make,” he said.

“We believe what’s needed are clear transparent rules that address all tech companies,” Chew said.

A 2022 report from the Washington Post revealed the company had fired employees in the US and China who’d been using the app to spy on reporters as a way to track down their sources.

Spying allegations

Today, Republican Neal Dunn (Florida) asked “Has ByteDance spied on American citizens?”

Chew replied that he doesn’t “think that spying is the right way to describe it”.

“This is ultimately an internal investigation.”

Earlier, Chew condemned their behaviour and said the company was implementing measures to prevent it from happening again.

Another topic raised was the safety of young people on the app.

TikTok’s CEO flouted recent steps which had introduced screen limits for users under the age of 16.

“We do want to be leading in terms of safety of our users, particularly for teenagers”, said Chew.

“We were the first to launch a 60-minute watch limits.”

Chew was then asked by the panel if the company would be comfortable losing users if they were enforcing screen limits.

He said TikTok would.

It’s unclear what today’s hearing means for the future of the app, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting the Chinese government would not approve a sale of TikTok.


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