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US Senate first hearing of TikTok CEO

Published on 26.03.2024 by Tracey Chizoba Fletcher

TikTok is always controversial, especially in the US. Few days ago, the Senate passed a bill to get closer to banning the app in the country. Meanwhile, the TikTok CEO presented the company in front of the Senate. It was the first time that Shou Zi was ready to answer the questions from the senators. 


Shou Zi answered questions from the Senate

TikTok's CEO, Shou Zi Chew, endured over five hours of rigorous questioning in Congress, focusing on the app's ties to China and its safeguards for younger users. This critical appearance occurs as TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, is under intense scrutiny from both sides of the political spectrum due to its rapid ascent in popularity and concerns over potential Chinese influence. Chew attempted to counter these criticisms during the session.

Chew asserted firmly in his prepared remarks, “ByteDance does not act on behalf of China or any other nation.” He also stood by TikTok's data privacy measures, asserting they meet or surpass those of competitors, and in many instances, TikTok gathers less information. “With over 150 million Americans enjoying our platform, we recognize our duty to keep them safe,” Chew emphasized.


Concerns are growing in the Senate

To counteract fears of Chinese oversight, TikTok has committed to transferring all American user data to servers within the United States, a venture known as Project Texas. This initiative also includes a partnership with Oracle, an American technology company, to conduct an examination of TikTok's underlying code and serve as an independent overseer.

TikTok has set a deadline to finalize this process by year's end. However, some members of Congress are skeptical about the feasibility of this ambitious plan, given the vast amount of source code—running into the hundreds of millions of lines—that must be meticulously inspected in a limited timeframe.

Expressing his doubts, Jay Obernolte, a Republican representative from California with a background in software engineering, voiced, “The promises of Project Texas may fall short of delivering the security guarantees we require, given the scale of technical challenges involved.”


Uncertainty leads to ban in the states

In a move to mitigate worries over its connections to China, TikTok has announced plans to transfer all American user data to servers within the US as part of an initiative known as Project Texas. This strategy also involves allowing Oracle, a prominent American technology company, to examine TikTok's programming code and serve as an external auditor.

TikTok has committed to achieving this goal by the year's end. Nonetheless, there is skepticism among some members of Congress about the practicality of this timeline, considering the extensive amount of code—totaling hundreds of millions of lines—that needs to be scrutinized in a comparatively brief period.

California's Republican Congressman and experienced software engineer, Jay Obernolte, expressed doubts about the project's feasibility, stating, “I have reservations about Project Texas's ability to technically deliver the level of security assurances we deem necessary.”