TikTok ban - live updates: CEO Shou Chew says social media apps should be banned from government devices

TikTok CEO Shou Chew says that no government devices should have social media apps on them.

“I disagree with that characterisation. I think the government devices should have no social media apps to be honest, not just targeted at us,” he told Rep John Joyce, from Pennsylvania during his testimony before Congress on Thursday.

Tik Tok is facing a complete ban in the US over fears that China is using the app as a covert tool for spying and spreading propaganda.

Mr Chew testified before Congress, with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee raising their concerns about how much access the Chinese government has to user data, as well as how much influence the Chinese Communist Party has over it.

TikTok has consistently denied such allegations, though this has not stopped the US and other countries from banning the app from government and military-issued devices.

Some countries like India have even issued a nationwide ban of TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps as a result of national security worries.

With more than 150 million TikTok users in the US, many will be following Thursday’s proceedings closely to see if Biden’s administration follows India by banning TikTok.

You can follow all the latest news and updates in our live coverage here.

TikTok ban key points

  • Who is TikTok CEO Shou Chew?

  • TikTok ban in numbers

  • TikTok CEO says government devices ‘should have no social media apps'

How can TikTok avoid a ban?

21:01 , Graeme Massie

The US government is reportedly demanding that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance sells its US business in order to avoid a complete ban.

If not, a bill that the Biden administration is currently trying to pass would allow the secretary of Commerce to prevent any foreign companies operating in the US if they are deemed to pose a threat to national security.

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” TikTok CEO Shou Chew will say during his testimony on Thursday.

His pre-submitted written statement claims: “TikTok has never shared, or received a request to share, US user data with the Chinese government. Nor would TikTok honour such a request if one were ever made.”

He will also defend TikTok’s handling of US user data by detailing the $1.5 billion ‘Project Texas’. The process involves hosting and routing all US data through the Oracle Cloud.

Dan Crenshaw attacks TikTok’s links to China

19:40 , Graeme Massie

To end the hearing Mr Crenshaw, a Republican from Texas, warned American TikTok users about why politicians were concerned about the company’s influence.

“You may not care that your data is being accessed now but it will be one day when you do care about it, and here’s the real problem: with data comes power they can choose what you see and how you see it, they can make you believe things that are not true...”he told the hearing.

And he added: The long-term goal of the Chinese Communist Party is the demise of American power, and that starts with our youth. “

Committee has now adjourned

19:30 , Graeme Massie

Dan Crenshaw clashes with TikTok CEO over CCP

19:29 , Graeme Massie

Dan Crenshaw, Texas, asked TikTok CEO Shou Chew if the company was controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

“No,” the executive told him as Mr Crenshaw said he disagreed with that position.

He then told Mr Chew that “many of your colleagues at ByteDance” were “card-carrying members” of the Chinese Communist Party.

“I work for TikTok. I can’t speak for ByteDance,” Mr Chew told him.

Mr Crenshaw said that TikTok was owned by ByteDance and that the Chinese government could get ByteDance to do whatever it wanted.

The politician then said that the CCP could insist on creating an algorithm to promote Chinese interests.

Committee has now gone into recess

17:58 , Graeme Massie


Congresswoman asks for TikTok to do more on eating disorder content

17:28 , Graeme Massie

Kimberly Merle Schrier, a congresswoman from Washington, asks what TikTok has done to make itself less addictive for teenagers.

TikTok CEO Shou Chew said that they had implemented a 60-minute opt-out for children and that there was a control for parents to set a time limit.

“People come to our platform for a very informative experience,” he told her.

The politician, a trained paediatrician, hit back saying that “20 per cent” of material on the app was “misinformation” and a lot of content glorified eating disorders.

“Anything that glorifies eating disorders we remove from our platform,” he told her.

“I share your concerns and I commit to doing more,” he told her

Rep Marc Veasey calls TikTok ‘world’s most powerful and extensive propaganda machine’

16:42 , Graeme Massie

Rep Marc Veasey, a Democrat from Texas, called TikTok “the world’s most powerful and extensive propaganda machine” and raised concerns about his 16-year-old son’s interest in the app.

“Teens don’t want to be on Facebook. They want your platform,” he said, adding that CEO Shou Chew’s “evasiveness” during the hearing “disturbs me”.

TikTok ban latest: Congressman brings up ‘life and death issues’ at stake

16:21 , Anthony Cuthbertson

We’re back underway with five minutes of questions from Congressman Cardenas from California, who addresses the “life and death issues” at stake.

He asks about the death threat to Chairwoman Rodgers that was up for 41 days, and only taken down when it was brought to Mr Chew’s attention during the hearing.

The TikTok CEO responds: “It goes to show the enormous challenge that we have to make sure that although the vast majority of users come for a good experience, we need to make sure that bad actors don’t pose violative content.”

TikTok ban latest: Congressman asks if app uses ‘home WiFI'

16:15 , Anthony Cuthbertson

While we wait for the session to resume, here’s a clip of Congressman Richard Hudson asking the TikTok CEO whether the app accesses other devices when it connects to a user’s home WiFi network.

TikTok ban latest: Time for a break

16:10 , Anthony Cuthbertson

As Congressman Carter yields his time, we’ve now got a 10 minute recess.

TikTok ban latest: Congressman brings up TikTok’s ‘biometric matrix'

16:08 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Congressman Carter from Georgia is venturing into the territory of conspiracy here, questioning whether TikTok’s algorithm is fed by biometric data obtained by spying on a user through their phone’s camera.

“I want to talk about biometric matrix,” Mr Carter says. “Can you say with 100 per cent certainty that TikTok does not use the phone’s camera to determine whether the content that elicits a pupil dilation should be amplified by the algorithm?”

Mr Chew respondes: “We do not collect body, face or voice data to identify our users.”

TikTok ban latest: Questioning moves onto distressing content

15:53 , Anthony Cuthbertson

The questioning has moved on to distressing content on the platform, with Congressman John Sarbanes claiming that TikTok is not doing enough to protect young users.

Congressman Brett Guthrie adds to this line of questioning by claiming that the Chinese version of TikTok Douyin would not allow such content on its platform.

CEO Shou Chew argues that a fairer comparison would be to US rivals like Facebook and Instagram, which face similar kinds of content moderation issues.

TikTok ban latest: CEO questioned about app’s source code

15:36 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Congressman Bill Johnson cites a Citizen Lab report that claims TikTok uses some of the same source code as the app Douyin, which is the Chinese version of TikTok also owned by ByteDance.

This, Mr Johnson claims, could allow the Chinese government to censor and influence content.

He accuses TikTok CEO Shou Chew of misleading the American public.

Mr Chew is not permitted to respond as the lawmaker yields his time.

TikTok ban latest: Tiananmen Square massacre content available on TikTok

15:27 , Anthony Cuthbertson

CEO Shou Chew earlier denied allegations that the Chinese Communist Party has the ability to censor content on TikTok. The Tiananmen Square protests were used an example, which Mr Chew insisted could be found among the app’s shortform content.

You can watch the video here:

TikTok ban latest: Death threat to Congresswoman on TikTok remained up for 41 days

15:21 , Anthony Cuthbertson

An apparent death threat to Chair Rodgers remained on TikTok for 41 days leading up to today’s hearing, according to Congresswoman Kat Cammack.

"You couldn't take action after 41 days when a clear threat, a very violent threat, to the chairwoman of this committee and the members of this committee was posted on your platform,” she said.

"You damn well know you cannot protect the data and security of this committee or the 150 million [US] users of your app, because it is an extension of the CCP."

TikTok ban latest: Congress members attack TikTok at CEO's hearing: 'Control, surveillance and manipulation'

15:09 , Anthony Cuthbertson

You can read the full story from The Independent’s John Bowden in Washington DC here:

Congress attacks TikTok at CEO’s hearing: ‘Control, surveillance and manipulation’

TikTok ban latest: Congress members air concerns

14:16 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Cathy McMorris Rodger, the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during her opening remarks that allowing a Chinese-owned company access to the phone screens of American children and teenagers is "like allowing the Soviet Union to produce Saturday morning cartoons during the Cold War - but much more dangerous".

Ranking member Frank Pallone adds to these fears by saying disinformation campaigns could be launched through TikTok, while "addictive algorithms" were contributing to "emotional distress and depression" in school children.

TikTok ban latest: CEO makes opening remarks

14:15 , Anthony Cuthbertson

TikTok CEO Shou Chew starts by saying he looks forward to “discussing what makes TikTok so special to the diverse audiences it serves, as well as our efforts to promote minor safety, data privacy, and platform security.”

He adds: “I also welcome the chance to update you about our efforts to develop cutting-edge, multi-pronged initiatives to address national security concerns.”


TikTok hearing about to begin

13:57 , Anthony Cuthbertson

We’re minutes away from TikTok CEO Shou Chew from taking his seat before members of Congress.

A live stream is available here:

Average US TikTok user ‘well past college age'

10:09 , Anthony Cuthbertson

There’s some interesting and surprising details included in the pre-submitted written testimony of TikTok CEO Shou Chew.

While many may think the majority of TikTok users in the US are children and young adults, Mr Chew claims that the average user is actually “well past college age”.

Although some people may still think of TikTok as a dancing app for teenagers, the reality is that our platform and our community have become so much more for so many.

More than 150 million people in the United States use TikTok on a monthly basis, with the average user today being an adult well past college age. Their videos provide a lens through which the rest of the world can experience American culture. Examples include TikTok’s role in bringing exposure to American musicians, artists, chefs, and many more. While users in the United States represent 10 percent of our global community, their voice accounts for 25 percent of the total views around the world .

Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok

You can read his full written statement ahead of today’s hearing here.

Naomi Hearts says TikTok gives marginalised groups online a voice

06:59 , Graeme Massie

“I feel like, as a trans woman, being on this platform, I’ve had opportunities I never would have had if I had not been for TikTok,” said Hearts, who is known on TikTok as @naomiheartsxo. It’s very disheartening to see people try to take that away.”

And she added: “I do this because I want to be the representation I wish I saw growing up.”

“I feel like the app is … a place where people come to feel a sense of humanity and a sense of togetherness and so it really is disheartening to see [a possible ban] but I hope our stories help to change their [politicians’] minds a bit,” she told NBC News.

05:05 , Graeme Massie

People gather for a press conference about their opposition to a TikTok ban on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on 22 March 2023.

The White House reportedly told TikTok earlier this month that the ap will be banned in the US if it continues to be owned by the Beijing-based tech firm Bytedance.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

TikTok star @duncanyounot defends app

03:03 , Graeme Massie

“I want to stop the misconception that it’s just an app. It’s so much more than that,” said Duncan Joseph, who has more than 4.5 million followers of his @duncanyounot account.

“If it were to be removed, these communities can’t just go to another spot. This is the home … and you just can’t rip that social fabric away from so many people.”

TikTok star V Spehar says he believes White House still understands platform’s importance

01:04 , Graeme Massie

V Spehar, known as @underthedesknews on TikTok, says he still believes that the Biden administration understands the importance of TikTok.

“I think the White House certainly recognizes the importance and the reach this platform has, or I wouldn’t have two letters sitting at home on my desk right now signed by Joe Biden saying how important my platform is and how proud he is of the work I do,” Spehar told NBC News.

Content creator @aidanpleasestoptalking gives view on TikTok ban

Wednesday 22 March 2023 23:01 , Graeme Massie

Content creator Aidan Kohn-Murphy, who is known as @aidanpleasestoptalking, has almost 300,000 TikTok followers.

“When Trump threatened to ban TikTok, young people mobilized. It was one of the big factors of youth turnout in 2020,” said Mr Kohn-Murphy, who also runs @GenZforChange account.

“I think young people are already disaffected with politics in a lot of ways, and I think this is going to build on that,” he told NBC News.

TikTok influencers address potential ban of app in Washington DC

Wednesday 22 March 2023 22:12 , Graeme Massie

TikTok influencer Janette Ok speaks during a media availability, Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Washington. (AP)
TikTok influencer Janette Ok speaks during a media availability, Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Washington. (AP)
TikTok influencer Gohar Khan speaks during a media availability, Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Washington. (AP)
TikTok influencer Gohar Khan speaks during a media availability, Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Washington. (AP)

TikTok ban warning from CEO Shou Chew

Wednesday 22 March 2023 16:26 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Here’s what Shou Zi Chew had to say ahead of tomorrow’s Congress hearing:


Our CEO, Shou Chew, shares a special message on behalf of the entire TikTok team to thank our community of 150 million Americans ahead of his congressional hearing later this week.

♬ original sound - TikTok

His warning that “all 150 million” US users could be banned has already generated dozens of ‘duets’ from TikTok users, with the majority of them appearing to offer their support both for Chew and TikTok.

While TikTok’s official account, which the video was posted to, has close to 70 million followers and 288 million likes, Chew’s personal account has just 17,000 followers and 68,000 likes. He could see that change in the coming days, with his appearance before Congress set to put his name on headlines around the world.

Wednesday 22 March 2023 15:01 , Anthony Cuthbertson

Shou Chew has less than 24 hours to wait before he appears before Congress at 10am local time (2pm GMT) on Thursday, 23 March.

He has already posted a TikTok asking US users what they want their elected representatives to know about “what you love” about TikTok.

“I’ll be testifying before Congress this week to share all that we’re doing to protect Americans using the app and deliver on our mission to inspire creativity and to bring joy,” he said in the post published to TikTok’s main account.

His own account has been remarkably quiet considering he’s the boss of the app, having posted less than a couple of dozen times in its history. His low profile is in keeping with his public persona, which he has managed to keep extremely private compared to the heads of other tech giants.

There’s only six sentences on his Wikipedia page, but if you want to find out more you can read this:

How a Facebook intern became the boss of TikTok

Hello and welcome...

Wednesday 22 March 2023 14:43 , Anthony Cuthbertson

to The Independent’s coverage of TikTok and the looming US ban. We’ll be bringing you all the latest news and developments as CEO Shou Chew prepares to face questions from lawmakers in Washington on Thursday.

His appearance could prove pivotal to whether or not the Biden Administration decides to push forward with a complete ban of the hugely popular app, having already blocked it from devices used by government workers and military personnel. TikTok was the most downloaded app in the US last year, with any action set to impact more than 150 million users.