TikTok attacked for China ties as US lawmakers push for ban


Twenty US senators – 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans – have backed bipartisan legislation giving President Joe Biden’s administration a path to ban TikTok, and the app’s fate has added a new element to tensions between Washington and Beijing.

TikTok last week said the Biden administration demanded its Chinese owners divest their stakes or face a potential ban.

When asked about a potential divestiture, Chew said the issue was “not about the ownership” and argued US concerns could be addressed by moving data to its US storage centres.

China’s commerce ministry said that forcing TikTok’s sale “will seriously damage the confidence of investors from all over the world, including China, to invest in the United States”, and that China would oppose any sale. Some lawmakers cited China’s comments to reject TikTok’s contention that it is separate from the Chinese government.

At Thursday’s House hearing, Representative Neal Dunn asked Chew if ByteDance has spied on Americans at Beijing’s request. Chew answered, “No.”

Republican Dunn then asked about US media reports that a China-based team at ByteDance planned to use TikTok to monitor the location of specific US citizens, and repeated his question about whether ByteDance was spying.

“I don’t think that spying is the right way to describe it,” Chew said. He went on to describe the reports as involving an “internal investigation”, but was cut off by Dunn, who called TikTok’s widespread use “a cancer”.

Shares of US social media companies that compete with TikTok for advertising rose on Thursday, with Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc up 1.8 per cent and Snap up 2.8 per cent.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives on Twitter he would characterise Chew’s testimony “as a ‘mini disaster’ for this key moment for TikTok. TikTok is now poster child of the US/China tensions and lawmakers have a lot of q’s with not enough concrete answers.”

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