TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew expects to defeat US ban threat: ‘We aren’t going anywhere’

TikTok’s chief executive said on Wednesday that the company expects to win a legal challenge to block legislation signed into law by US President Joe Biden that he said would ban the popular short video app used by 170 million Americans.

“Rest assured – we aren’t going anywhere,” CEO Shou Zi Chew said in a video posted moments after Biden signed the bill that gives China-based ByteDance 270 days to divest TikTok’s US assets or face a ban. “The facts and the Constitution are on our side and we expect to prevail again.”

Biden’s signing sets a January 19 deadline for a sale – one day before his term is set to expire – but he could extend the deadline by three months if he determines ByteDance is making progress. Biden is seeking a second term against former US president Donald Trump.

In 2020, Trump was blocked by the courts in his bid to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat, a unit of Tencent, in the United States.



Singaporeans fume over US lawmaker grilling of TikTok CEO

Singaporeans fume over US lawmaker grilling of TikTok CEO

Chew added: “Make no mistake – this is a ban on TikTok.” He emphasised that TikTok would continue to operate as the company challenges the restrictions.

Driven by widespread worries among US lawmakers that China could access Americans’ data or surveil them with the app, the bill was overwhelmingly passed late on Tuesday by the US Senate. The US House of Representatives approved it on Saturday.

The four-year battle over TikTok is a significant front in a war over the internet and technology between Washington and Beijing. Last week, Apple said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.

TikTok is set to challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds and TikTok users are also expected to again take legal action. A US judge in Montana in November blocked a state ban on TikTok, citing free-speech grounds.

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The American Civil Liberties Union said banning or requiring divestiture of TikTok would “set an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms”.

However, the new legislation is likely to give the Biden administration a stronger legal footing to ban TikTok if ByteDance fails to divest the app, experts say.

If ByteDance failed to divest TikTok, app stores operated by Apple, Alphabet’s Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide Web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications or TikTok’s website.

The bill would also give the White House new tools to ban or force the sale of other foreign-owned apps it deems to be security threats.



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‘I think there might be a bias’: Young Americans address China fears amid potential TikTok ban

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said he was concerned the bill “provides broad authority that could be abused by a future administration to violate Americans’ First Amendment rights”.

Trump said on Monday that President Joe Biden was “pushing” for a ban on TikTok and would be the one responsible if a ban were imposed, urging voters to take notice.

Biden’s re-election campaign plans to continue using TikTok, a campaign official said on Wednesday. Trump’s campaign has not joined the platform.

TikTok is also under pressure across the Atlantic.

TikTok responds to EU ultimatum on risks of new TikTok Lite app

On Wednesday, it announced the suspension of a feature in its spin-off TikTok Lite app in France and Spain that rewards users for watching and liking videos, after the European Union launched a probe.

TikTok said the suspension would remain “while we address the concerns that they have raised”.

TikTok Lite is a smaller version of the popular TikTok app, taking up less memory in a smartphone and made to perform over slower internet connections.

It arrived in France and Spain – the only EU countries where it is available – in March. Users aged 18 and over can earn points to exchange for goods like vouchers or gift cards through the app’s rewards programme.

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton addresses a media conference regarding the Digital Markets Act at EU headquarters in Brussels in March. Photo: AP

The European Commission on Monday announced an investigation into TikTok Lite, and threatened to have the rewards programme suspended, raising concerns about the risk to users’ mental health.

The commission demanded TikTok provide more information by a Wednesday deadline, along with any defence against the threatened suspension.

The commission’s top tech enforcer, Thierry Breton, said the EU investigation would continue, stating: “Our children are not guinea pigs for social media.”

“We suspect that this [rewards] feature could generate addiction and that TikTok did not do a diligent risk assessment and take effective mitigation measures prior to its launch,” he said.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse



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