TikTok CEO appeals to users directly to oppose potential US ban

By John Mercury March 16, 2024

TikTok’s chief executive has appealed to US users directly to stop a bill that could see the social media app banned in America.

Shou zi Chew appealed to the public via – what else – a video posted on the app.

“Keep sharing your stories, share them with your friends, share them with your family, share them with your Senators,” he said.

Users have been campaigning to stop the bill since it was announced but on Wednesday, members of the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favour.

It now goes to the Senate. President Joe Biden has already indicated he would support the measures.

If the bill passes, TikTok will need to separate from its Chinese parent company ByteDance within six months or be banned in the US.

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Will the US ban TikTok?

‘Senator, I’m Singaporean’

Although he hasn’t confirmed TikTok will refuse to separate from ByteDance, Mr Chew told users the bill “will lead to a ban of TikTok in the United States”.

“Even the bill’s sponsors admit that’s their goal,” he said.

Politicians and TikTok creators speak out against the proposed bill on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Pic: Reuters
Politicians and TikTok creators speak out against the bill in Washington DC. Pic: Reuters

In 2020, then President Trump tried to ban TikTok unless it was acquired by an American company. He alleged the Chinese government was using it to spy on millions of Americans.

Although the ban never went into effect, the controversy continued.

In 2022, ByteDance confirmed it had used TikTok to monitor Western journalists’ physical locations via their IP addresses.

In 2023, US government employees were banned from using the app on their work devices.

But in his video appeal, Mr Chew said: “Over the last few years, we have invested to keep your data safe and our platform free from outside manipulation.”

He has been grilled by US senators, and in February was repeatedly asked if he has links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Eventually, he replied: “Senator, I’m Singaporean. No.”

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‘Senator, I’m Singaporean. No.’

ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, was founded by Chinese entrepreneurs – but the company says 60% of its shares are owned by non-Chinese investors.

Read more:
Is TikTok getting banned and could it happen in the UK?

‘Love you all’

In a final appeal, Mr Chew finished the video by telling users to “protect your constitutional rights. Make your voices heard”.

Mr Chew signed off his video to TikTok’s 170 million users with “love you all”.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese government, said the bill contradicts “the principle of fair competition and international economic and trade rules”.

Asked if the potential ban was any different from China banning foreign social media platforms, Mr Wenbin said China has always welcomed foreign platforms and services “on the basis of complying with Chinese laws and regulations”.

He said the US handling of TikTok constitutes an act of bullying.


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