TikTok CEO Pledges to Ensure User Data Protection in Congressional Hearing

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew recently testified in a congressional hearing, vowing to prioritize safety and security on the social media platform, especially for teenagers. Chew also promised to firewall US user data from foreign access and keep the app free from government interference.

This is to alleviate concerns from US officials and lawmakers that TikTok could potentially turn over user data to Chinese authorities or be influenced by Beijing’s propaganda. To show TikTok’s commitment to safeguarding user data, the company recently launched a significant outreach effort in Washington. Despite this, Republicans in Congress have called for an outright ban on the app.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew

User Safety a Top Priority

Chew affirmed in his prepared remarks that keeping users safe is a top priority for TikTok. He promised to safeguard user data by prioritizing content moderation and using technology to identify and suppress potentially harmful content on the platform. Chew cited statistics to show that TikTok has made significant improvements in content moderation, removing more than 89 million videos in the second half of 2020 alone for violating community guidelines. He also pointed out that TikTok provides safety features like privacy settings, restricted mode, and screen time management that allow parents to monitor their children’s use of the app.

TikTok Protecting User Data Firewalling US User Data

A significant concern among US officials is that TikTok could be legally obliged to provide user data to Chinese authorities if Beijing demands it, leading to national security risks. To address these concerns, Chew emphasized TikTok’s commitment to keeping US user data separate from China’s. He assured lawmakers that TikTok has implemented robust measures, including its Project Texas initiative, to firewall US user data from foreign access. Chew also noted that TikTok has appointed an independent data protection officer who is responsible for ensuring that the platform complies with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Chew: TikTok Won’t Interfere with US Politics

Another concern is that TikTok could be influenced by Beijing’s propaganda or actively interfere in US politics. Chew vehemently denied these accusations, stating that TikTok has implemented strict measures to prevent foreign influence or interference in US politics. Chew explained that TikTok has established a transparent content moderation process that involves human reviewers, transparent guidelines, and an appeals process for users. Moreover, TikTok has published a quarterly report detailing its content moderation efforts and providing insights into its practices.

Overall, Chew’s testimony in the congressional hearing is part of TikTok’s efforts to bolster its image and allay fears about user data privacy and foreign interference. Although TikTok has made major improvements to safeguard user data and prevent foreign influence, it is unclear whether the platform will be able to convince US officials that it can operate securely with its current ownership structure. Nonetheless, Chew’s pledge to firewall user data and keep TikTok free from government interference is a step forward in establishing trust with lawmakers in Washington.

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