TikTok CEO refuses to answer if Chinese government has influence over platform as Congress mulls ban

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TikTok CEO Shou Chew refused to answer questions on Thursday about whether the Chinese government has influence over the popular social media app as lawmakers mull a ban on the platform. 

Chew was walking out of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., when he was asked nine times about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) relationship with the app. 

“Mr. Chew, can you say with 100% certainty that the Chinese government does not have any influence over TikTok? Can you say with 100% certainty that the Chinese government does not have any influence over TikTok?” FOX Business correspondent Hillary Vaughn asked. 

“Project Texas over the last three, four years,” Chew said, referring to a TikTok initiative to protect users’ data and privacy. He refused to give a yes or no answer. 

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Questions about Beijing’s influence are partly why lawmakers have sought to advance a bill that would block TikTok in the U.S. if its parent company, Bytedance, does not divest from it within 165 days of passage. It would also require it to be bought by a country that is not a U.S. adversary.

On Wednesday, the measure passed the House in a 352-65 vote, with one abstention. 

Critics of TikTok have long raised concerns about its potential as a national security threat. They have cited concerns about the Chinese government’s ability to leverage its power over Bytedance to access sensitive user data. 

Many also say the app’s popularity among young Americans gives the CCP an opportunity to conduct a mass influence campaign. 

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TikTok California offices

“Bytedance is owned by global investors, and about the majority of our investors are global investors,” Chew said Thursday. “And then the rest is owned by the founders. So there’s no CCP ownership.”

Opponents of the bill, including young people and activists, have bombarded Congress in recent weeks with phone calls and messages. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, one of the bill’s lead co-sponsors, told FOX Business last week that lawmakers’ offices were even fielding calls with people threatening suicide.

Chew has denied claims of Chinese government influence, despite banning videos in the past of the treatment of Uyghur Muslims and accusations of censoring anti-Chinese government content. 

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FOX Business reached out to TikTok for comment. 

FOX Business’ Bradford Betz and Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report. 

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