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21 Mar, 2023
2 min time to read

On March 23rd, Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to appear before Congress in defense of the app.

TikTok is facing increased scrutiny from US legislators who have expressed concerns about the app's Chinese ownership and its handling of user data. To counter these concerns, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has launched a charm offensive ahead of a congressional hearing scheduled for later this week. Chew has posted a minute-long video on TikTok's official account, rallying users to defend the app against a possible ban.

In the video, Chew outlines points he is likely to raise in his House Energy and Commerce Committee testimony, including the fact that TikTok now has 150 million American users, almost half of the US population. He also notes that the majority of these users are small and medium businesses, with five million American businesses now using the app. Chew emphasizes that TikTok has 7,000 American employees, which is a big leap from the 1,400 US headcount it had in 2020, although it falls short of the 10,000 or more that TikTok had aimed for.

Despite these positive developments, Chew warns that some politicians have talked about banning TikTok, and this could take the app away from all of its 150 million American users. While Chew does not explicitly call on users to participate in the democratic process by contacting their local congressperson, he does encourage them to leave comments about what they love about TikTok.

Direct-to-user lobbying is not a new tactic for tech companies, and TikTok has previously focused on more buttoned-down campaigns to convince politicians and reporters of its safety. However, the app has stepped up its efforts this week, with influencers reportedly being sent to Washington, DC to defend the app.

A ban is not the preferred option for many politicians, and President Joe Biden's administration has reportedly asked TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, to sell or spin off the app and sever its links to China. Such a move would address concerns about TikTok spying on journalists, abusing users' personal data, and secretly providing tracking data to government intelligence agencies. TikTok is expected to oppose any ban in court, as WeChat users did successfully in 2020.

In conclusion, Chew's video is a strategic move aimed at rallying support from TikTok's 150 million American users and building a public case for the app's safety and importance. While a ban is not the preferred option for many politicians, the future of TikTok in the US remains uncertain, and the app's fate will likely be decided in the coming weeks and months.