Summary

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  • Solution: A partnership with an expert in Privacy UX
  • Results: A lasting relationship at a global scale

Usually discreet, Shou Zi Chew finds himself on the front of the stage this Thursday in Washington.

The boss of TikTok is indeed heard by a committee of the House of Representatives, while a bill could lead to a ban on the platform of short videos in the United States.

"I firmly believe that all the concerns raised have solutions," he will state in his opening statement, which has already been released.

After escaping a forced sale in 2020, the company is trying to reassure the U.S. political class, which is concerned about the alleged ties of ByteDance, its Chinese parent company, to Beijing. But its proposals to secure American data have still not convinced.

The platform, which now has 150 million followers in the United States, raises two concerns. First, the collection of user data by the Chinese government.

Second, potential influence campaigns led by Beijing thanks to the recommendation algorithm, for example to influence an election. TikTok has been negotiating for many months with the Committee on Foreign Investment.

The company proposes to host the data of American users in the United States in the Oracle cloud. And to allow independent audits on its algorithm.

While a preliminary agreement was reached in the fall, the case is now at a standstill, mainly because of doubts expressed by the Department of Justice and the FBI.

Faced with this impasse, the Biden administration may well have changed its strategy. Last week, it even warned TikTok that it would require a sale of the application, otherwise it would be banned in the United States.

To avoid the same legal setbacks as in 2020, lawmakers have launched a bill to allow the government to ban foreign technologies deemed dangerous to national security.

A sale of TikTok will not be so simple, however, even if ByteDance decides to do so.

It will be necessary to find a buyer capable of writing a check estimated at $50 billion, without raising concerns from competition authorities. And it will also be necessary to get the green light from Beijing.

To avoid this, Shou Zi Chew will not only try to reassure the American congressmen. Nor will he only highlight the number of employees in the United States and the number of small businesses present on the platform.

He is already preparing a lobbying campaign, led by users.

Tuesday, in a short video, he began to mobilize them, warning them that "some politicians" want to "take away TikTok". And several influencers have been invited to Washington.

This is probably his best card: can the Biden administration really ban an app so popular with young people, an important base of his electorate? "We'd lose their vote," acknowledges Gina Raimondo, the Commerce Secretary..


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