TikTok CEO appeals to U.S. users ahead of House testimony

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appealed directly to the app’s users ahead of what’s expected to be a heated grilling in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee this week, in a video posted to the platform Tuesday.

Filming from Washington, D.C., Chew emphasized the large scale of TikTok users, small and medium-sized businesses and its own employees based in the U.S. that rely on the company. The message may preview his appeal to lawmakers Thursday, where he will be faced with questions about the ability of its Chinese parent company ByteDance, and the Chinese government, to access U.S. user information collected by the app.

TikTok says it has worked to create a risk mitigation plan to ensure that U.S. data doesn’t get into the hands of a foreign adversary through its app. The company has said U.S. user data is already stored outside of China.

But many lawmakers and intelligence officials seem to remain unconvinced that the information can be safe while TikTok is owned by a Chinese company. TikTok said last week that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which is reviewing risks related to the app, is pushing for ByteDance to sell its stake or face a ban.

Chew disclosed in the video that TikTok has more than 150 million monthly active users, or MAUs, in the U.S., representing massive growth from August 2020, when it said for the first time that it has about 100 million MAUs in the country. That number includes 5 million businesses that use the app to reach their customers, with most of those being small or medium-sized businesses. He also said TikTok has 7,000 U.S.-based employees.

“This comes at a pivotal moment for us,” Chew said, referencing lawmakers’ threats of a TikTok ban. “This could take TikTok away from all 150 million of you.”

Chew then appealed to users directly to share in the comments what they want their representatives to know about why they love TikTok.

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