Dec 10, 2019

TikTok chief delays Washington charm offensive

Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

TikTok head Alex Zhu canceled meetings with lawmakers who have raised concerns about the popular video-sharing app in Washington this week.

The big picture: The cancellation is fueling a fresh round of criticism from lawmakers who have already called out the Beijing-owned company over issues ranging from censorship to children's privacy.

Driving the news: A TikTok spokesperson said Zhu still wants to hold the meetings, just not this week.

  • “TikTok has no higher priority than ensuring Congress Members’ questions are addressed fully and transparently," the company said in a statement. "To ensure these conversations are as productive as possible, we're postponing these meetings until after the holidays.”

What they're saying: Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Josh Hawley, who both had meetings scheduled with Zhu, were quick to call out the company on Twitter.

  • "What is the real reason TikTok has cancelled my meeting with CEO Alex Zhu? What are they really doing with your data and what type surveillance are they conducting on your precious children? TikTok — you owe us answers," Blackburn tweeted.
  • "NEWS: @tiktok_us just cancelled their meeting with me this week. Not willing to answer questions. Get a call from Beijing?" Hawley said via Twitter.
  • Hawley introduced legislation that took aim at TikTok last month, while Blackburn has pressed the company on digital gifts and children's privacy.

Context: The meetings with Hawley and Blackburn were part of a planned effort by Zhu to meet with some of the app's toughest critics on Capitol Hill, as reported by The Washington Post.

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Why it matters: The move, coupled with the Navy's similar decision earlier this month, highlights how seriously the military and government are taking TikTok's potential national security implications.

Go deeperArrowDec 31, 2019

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Go deeperArrowJan 8, 2020

WSJ: TikTok wants to move out of China

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, is weighing its options for building TikTok's global headquarters outside of China, the Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

The big picture: The video-sharing app is likely trying to distance itself from its Chinese ownership amid concerns around its user data and possible censorship on issues deemed off-limits by the Chinese Communist Party.

Go deeperArrowDec 28, 2019