Updated Mar 17, 2023 - Technology

TikTok CEO: App sale won't address U.S. concerns

TikTok CEO, Shou Zi Chew in Washington, D.C., in February. Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew insisted Thursday that forcing the app's Chinese parent company, Bytedance, to sell it would not address the the national security concerns of the U.S. and other governments.

The big picture: Chew's comments to the Wall Street Journal coincided with the U.K. and New Zealand becoming the latest to announce new TikTok restrictions on government devices due to security concerns.

  • The Biden Administration has warned TikTok that it faces a ban in the United States if ByteDance doesn't sell its stake in the U.S. version of the app, per Axios' Sara Fischer and Ashley Gold.

What they're saying: Doubling down on statements the company has issued previously, Chew told the WSJ that such a move would not provide any more protection than the firm's current plan, which involves ensuring that U.S. user data is accessible only by Oracle Cloud and the firm's American data security team.

  • "I do welcome feedback on what other risk we are talking about that is not addressed by this," Chew told the outlet from TikTok's WeWork offices in Washington, D.C.
  • "So far I haven't heard anything that cannot actually be solved by this."

The intrigue: Chew declined to say during his interview with the WSJ whether ByteDance's founders were open to selling, the outlet reports.

  • Chew said he and ByteDance had mulled an initial public offering of TikTok, as some lawmakers have suggested to allay security concerns. But there's "no concrete plan right now."

State of play: China's ruling Communist Party has said there's no evidence that TikTok threatens national security. But the U.S., the EU, Canada, and several other countries have in recent months moved to impose bans and other restrictions on the app in relation to official government devices.

Of note: FBI director Chris Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month that the Chinese Communist Party has the ability to control the software on millions of devices due to its relationship with ByteDance.

What we're watching: Chew is due to give testimony before Congress next week.

Go deeper... Focus groups: TikTok ban falls flat with Wisconsin swing voters

Editor's note: This article has been updated with further context.

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