TikTok CEO at a Raging Hearing: Here’s the Full Story


Swarnali Datta

In the current times when job opportunities are persistently dwindling, digital platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Instagram are a great source of hope for the ones who run away from the monotonous desk jobs.

Ever since these platforms came to the tech world, creativity has been ever flowing and it actually feels great when it gets paid off at the end of the day; after all, the creators too are creating content with a lot of hard work and passion. But recently, the app is now prohibited or restricted in a number of nations worldwide.

In order to resolve concerns about TikTok and ByteDance’s relations with the Chinese government and the handling of user data, TikTok has been in secret talks with the administration’s review panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for years.

Last week however, the scenario took a massive turn as Mr. Chew spoke before Congress and was interrogated for around five hours by members who questioned whether TikTok was hurting young people with harmful content, violating people’s privacy, or spying on Americans for the Chinese government. Intrigued to gulp down this hot story? Read on.

Delving into the issue

An unusual public appearance for the 40-year-old TikTok CEO Chew, who has generally avoided the spotlight as the popularity of the social network surges, made its first appearance before US Congress on the day of hearing. Tens of millions of Americans now use TikTok, but lawmakers have long been concerned about China’s control over the app which Chew tried to allay during the session. Chew testified on Thursday, “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.”

Members of the committee grilled Chew about his relationships with executives at ByteDance, which according to lawmakers, have connections to the Chinese Communist party. The committee members inquired about Chew’s communication frequency and questioned whether the company’s suggested responses to US data security issues would provide enough defences against Chinese regulations that mandate businesses to provide user data to the government.

Mr. Chew denied that the Chinese government owned ByteDance and said that TikTok had a mechanism to protect the data of American users. But lawmakers mainly laughed at his responses, which fuelled demands that TikTok need to be completely removed from the Apple and Google app stores in the US. In addition, the Biden administration has pushed for TikTok to be sold off from ByteDance, a move that China has opposed, or for it to try to reach a deal with the U.S. government about data security issues.

Chew, a former Goldman Sachs banker who has been the company’s CEO since March 2021, was also questioned by lawmakers on the platform’s effects on mental health, particularly among its younger users.

Gus Bilirakis, a Republican congressman, told the tale of Chase Nasca, a 16-year-old who committed suicide by walking in front of a train a year ago. At the hearing, Nasca’s parents, who have filed a lawsuit against ByteDance alleging that Chase was “targeted” with unsolicited self-harm content, showed up and became distraught as Bilirakis recounted their son’s experience.

Bilirakis said- “I want to thank his parents for being here today, and allowing us to show this…Mr Chew, your company destroyed their lives.”

However on TikTok itself, the concerns of the lawmakers landed with a thud.

A user wrote in a caption posted on Friday- “There needs to be an age limit on congressional positions bc this was so embarrassing.”

Several people were adamantly opposed to a TikTok ban in the US. Physicians, specialists in self-defence, parenting influencers, and others posted videos in which they claimed that they were already looking for methods to keep using the app even if it were to be banned. They also blamed Facebook and Google for the criticism.

Also read: Here’s What You Need to Know About Enabling Auto Scroll on TikTok!

What have the TikTokers got to say?

As the CEO of the platform fought with Congress at a hearing on whether to outlaw the app in the US because of security concerns, TikTokers have become obsessed with him. With the belief that Shoul Zi Chew dealt with excessive pressure so well, the TikTokers have shared tributes and other “thirst-trap” films of him.

Almost 1.3 million people have watched one of the most popular videos, which includes many overlay images of Chew from the hearing set to the well-known song “OMG” by the K-pop group NewJeans. A comment read- “Yall fr simping for the CEO of TikTok.”

Another video which featured Chew debunking a claim that TikTok will think about parting ways with its Chinese owner ByteDance, had nearly a million views. (Chew asserted that ownership is unrelated to the problem, pointing out that American tech firms have a spotty past when it comes to data protection.)

Also read: Attention, TikTokers! The All New Paywall Feature is Here!

To sum it up

The US air seems to be quite humid for TikTok nowadays; we hope that the TikTok CEO is having a sound sleep.

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