Faced with questions about alleged harmful actions spurred by TikTok posts, Chew said he supports continued liability protections for social media platforms as a means of protecting free speech.
The liability protection set out in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects social media sites and other platforms from legal liability that may arise as a result of content posted by users.
“[Section] 230 is very important for freedom of expression on the Internet,” Chew said. “This is one of our commitments to this team and our users.”
“I think it’s important to preserve it,” he said.
Hours before Chew began testimony on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that China said the sale of TikTok by China-based parent company ByteDance would require Chinese government approval.
At the hearing, the lawmakers asked about Chiv’s statement.
“Contrary to your assurances, China certainly thinks it is in control of TikTok and its software,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas. “Isn’t that right?”
Chew replied, “TikTok is not available in mainland China, and today we are headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore.”
“I’m not saying that the founders of Byte Dance are not Chinese, and I’m not saying that we don’t employ Chinese employees like many companies around the world,” he added.
In an early exchange, Chew faced repeated questions about TikTok’s relationship with the Chinese government and its alleged censoring of content on its behalf.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers asked Chew about a process called “hot content,” in which a social media site promotes or rates posts that appear on its platform.
“In your current or previous positions at Chinese companies, have employees been involved in marketing content to users outside of China?” McMorris Rodgers asked.
“Our warming process has been recognized by our local groups in various countries,” replied Chew, adding that controversial content such as posts about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre are currently in use.
McMorris doubts the veracity of Rodgers’ statement, “I remind you that it is a federal crime to make false or misleading statements to Congress.”
Chew addressed lawmakers’ concerns about data protection and content handling in opening remarks, emphasizing the steps the company has taken to protect user data.
Chew said of Project Texas, an ongoing effort he says will keep all data on US users within the country, partnering with Austin-based cloud computing company Oracle.
“Faith is about the actions we take,” Chew said. “We will protect U.S. data from unwanted foreign access through firewalls.”
“TikTok will be a place for free expression and will not be manipulated by any government,” he added.