TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Congressional Testimony / March 2023 U.S. TikTok Ban Hearing
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TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Congressional Testimony, also known as the March 2023 U.S. TikTok Ban Hearing, refers to the U.S. Congressional hearing in late March 2023 that was held to determine the potential of a U.S. TikTok Ban, which featured TikTok's CEO Shou Zi Chew testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. During the televised courtroom hearing, Chew aimed to prove that TikTok wasn't cooperating with China's Communist government (CCP) by giving over American user data for them to exploit, as well as TikTok's moderation and effect on children. Mr. Chew discussed what his company dubbed "Project Texas" that aims to delete all American user data held overseas in order to quell the fear portrayed by politicians. Multiple videos and memes from TikTok were presented before the court by Congressmen, including a Slow Motion Gun Animation meme and a corecore video compilation (among others that allegedly showed TikTok's harm on American mental health and influence from the CCP to spread propaganda). Many moments from the hearing were clipped and shared on platforms like Twitter and TikTok where some users criticized the Congress members for being ill-informed, not digitally literate and not letting Mr. Chew speak. While many critics labeled the Congresspeople as Boomers, others online echoed their concerns, supporting the ban to follow through in accordance with ByteDance (TikTok's parent company) being influenced by the CCP.
On December 30th, 2022, it was reported that U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill into law prohibiting TikTok on federal government devices. On February 27th, 2023, it was then reported that the White House gave government agencies 30 days to remove the app from their devices. Around the same time, the U.K. Parliament passed a similar bill that banned the app from government phones. It was also reported that Bill H.R. 1153 would go before the House that Tuesday, February 28th, which would allow Biden to ban the app across the U.S.
As Shou Zi Chew was set to testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington on March 23rd, 2023, he uploaded a TikTok video on March 21st to the official account of @tiktok. He addressed American users and asked them what he should say to Congress about why they enjoy and use the app. Over the course of two days, the video received roughly 9.1 million plays and 999,400 likes (shown below).
Our CEO, Shou Chew, shares a special message on behalf of the entire TikTok team to thank our community of 150 million Americans ahead of his congressional hearing later this week.
U.S. Congress TikTok Ban Hearing
On March 23rd, 2023, Mr. Chew was set to speak in front of the U.S. Congress House Energy and Commerce Committee and took the stand to defend TikTok and ByteDance's place on the American internet. Multiple clips and videos from his testimony were uploaded to Twitter and elsewhere as TV news channels like ABC broadcasted it live. For instance, at around 10:28 a.m. EST on March 23rd, the Twitter account of @ABC tweeted a clip in which Chew stated, "We expect that to be complete this year. When that is done, all protected U.S. data will be under the protection of U.S. law," in reference to "Project Texas," which would delete all American TikTok data stored overseas. The tweet received roughly 331,900 views and 2,400 likes in one day (shown below).
BREAKING: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew says legacy U.S. data in Virginia and Singapore servers are being deleted: "We expect that to be complete this year. When that is done, all protected U.S. data will be under the protection of U.S. law." https://t.co/JUDKzV3Idw pic.twitter.com/N7grXITLM5
— ABC News (@ABC) March 23, 2023
"Player Tip: KYS" Video / Corecore Videos
At one point during the hearing, Florida Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R) presented a series of depressing, corecore TikTok videos, starting the compilation with a stitch posted by TikToker @amanm9, which satirized a well-known corecore video called Player Tip: KYS.
On the same day, the clip from the hearing was uploaded to Twitter by the account @RNCResearch, which ultimately echoed Bilirakis' sentiment that the videos glorified suicide. In less than an hour, the video gained roughly 11,800 views (shown below).
Congressman @RepGusBilirakis grills TikTok CEO Shou Chew over the platform's content glorifying suicide -- and their inability to take responsibility.
WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT pic.twitter.com/PpdU8gF7aq
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 23, 2023
Later on March 23rd, 2023, TikToker @owens_tiktok uploaded the clip to the platform, writing in text overlay, "Dude no way / THEY LITERALLY PLAYED CORECORE TIKTOK IN CONGRESS." The repost ultimately criticized the Congressman's belief that the videos were evidence that the platform was harmful, and in less than a day, the TikTok gained roughly 593,300 plays and 83,800 likes (shown below).
@owens_tiktok CONGRESSMAN PLAYED “PLAYER TIP: K YOURSELF” VIDEO DURING U.S. TIKTOK BAN HEARING WTFFFFFFFFFFFFF. They used like emotional #corecore videos to say tiktok is glorifying unaliving #core #us #tiktokban #tiktokceo #tiktokus ♬ original sound – owe
Rep. Kat Cammack's Questioning
On March 23rd, 2023, a clip from the trial was uploaded by TikToker @klassenkrieger in which Florida Congresswoman Kat Cammack (R) asked Mr. Chew if he was in direct contact with ByteDance's CCP Committee Secretary and Vice President Zhang Fuping, inferring that TikTok was being influenced by the Chinese Communist Party to promote propaganda. The TikTok received roughly 542,900 likes and ultimately criticized the Congresswoman's questioning (shown below).
@testrun4adventure Ms Piggy didn't even let the man speak or give a response #tiktok #tiktokban #congress #uscongress #china #usa #tiktokceo #fyp #fypage #viral ♬ original sound – TestRun4Adventure
Rep. Cammack's questioning was in relation to VP Zhang Fuping and his status as ByteDance's CCP Committee Secretary. Information about Zhang Fuping's status in the company was unearthed by the Australian Senate Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media in a report called "TikTok, ByteDance, and their ties to the Chinese Communist Party" that was published on March 14th, 2023.
The Australian Committee relayed in its report, among other things, that Fuping and ByteDance had interfered with TikTok's Chinese version (Douyin) in promoting propaganda-like content to its userbase. Rep. Cammack's questioning was in regards to TikTok being influenced by the same measures although no evidence shows that TikTok has been influenced. Regardless, TikTok's connection to the CCP's demands through ByteDance and Douyin raised concern in Congress, a concern that Mr. Chew aimed to quell by initiating "Project Texas" and reiterating that he nor TikTok are under the command of Zuping.
In addition to her questioning, Congresswoman Cammack also played a Slow Motion Gun Animation meme that she perceived as threatening the Committee's hearing (though it was plausibly satirical). The TikTok was uploaded by the user @ifunnyr3t4rduser, which referenced the app iFunny where slow motion gun animation memes using the song "Mississippi Queen" started.
The video was uploaded to Twitter on March 23rd and uploaded to TikTok by Vice's account @motherboardvice, where it received roughly 5.4 million plays and 417,500 likes in less than a day (shown below).
@motherboardvice You can tell things are going well at the #tiktokhearing ♬ original sound – Motherboard
Rep. Richard Hudson's Questioning / "Does TikTok Access The Home WiFi?"
Another moment during the hearing that received viral attention online was when North Carolina Congressman Richard Hudson (R) asked Mr. Chew if TikTok accessed the home WiFi network. The clip was posted by the TikTok account of @cnetdotcom on March 23rd, 2023, where it received roughly 8.9 million plays and 828,300 likes in less than a day (shown below).
@cnetdotcom 😳😳😳……… #TikTok #TikTokNews #Congress #TikTokCEO #ShouChew #Wifi #internet #congressionalhearing #TikTokban #tiktokhearing ♬ original sound – CNET
Rep. Anna Eshoo's Questioning / "I find that, actually, preposterous"
Another clip from the hearing that gained viral attention was of California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D) asking Mr. Chew if the CCP has access to American user data through TikTok to which Mr. Chew replied, "I have seen no evidence that the Chinese government has access to that data." Rep. Eshoo replied, "I find that, actually, preposterous." The clip was posted by Twitter user @alx on March 23rd, 2023, receiving roughly 172,300 views and 1,600 likes in less than 24 hours (shown below). The clip also went viral on TikTok.
TikTok CEO on Americans’ Data: “I have seen no evidence that the Chinese government has access to that data.”
REP. ESHOO: “I find that, actually, preposterous.”
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) March 23, 2023
Online Reactions and Memes
Predominantly on Twitter and TikTok, internet users posted content about the hearing, either reacting positively towards the Committee's overall questioning or reacting negatively to their questioning. Among many reactions, several of the most viral were humorously critical of the Commitee's questioning.
For instance, on March 23rd, 2023, Twitter user @dorogami_ criticized the Committee for being ill-informed and not digitally literate, gaining roughly 32,000 likes in less than a day (shown below, left). Also on March 23rd, Twitter user @fbgwayno tweeted about a humorous double standard portrayed by people who believe TikTok is working with the CCP to steal American user data, earning roughly 32,000 likes in less than a day (shown below, right).
Multiple skits surfaced on TikTok on March 23rd and in the days that followed, which portrayed "Mr. Chew vs. Congress." For instance, on March 23rd, TikToker @wiggiediego posted a video in which the imagined Congressmen were telling Mr. Chew to "Shut your bitch ass up," earning roughly 4 million plays and 1 million likes in less than a day (shown below, left). Also that day, TikToker @phizique posted a video that humorously praised whoever posted the Slow Motion Gun Animation meme that Rep. Cammack presented, earning roughly 1.2 million plays and 238,600 likes in less than a day (shown below, right).
@wiggiediego We might be finished 😭#wiggiediego #skit #comedу #congress #funny ♬ original sound – wiggiediego
@phizique #comedy #congress #tiktokban #tiktokamerica #freedomofspeech #surveillance #liberty #freedom #wellness #selfcare #selfimprovement #guidelines #committeehearing #china #america #usa #news ♬ original sound – Ian
In the days that followed Mr. Chew's Congressional hearing, multiple TikToks and tweets were uploaded that highlighted Rep. Cammack's, Rep. Eshoo's and Rep. Bilirakis' questioning, among other moments during the trial that accused TikTok, ByteDance and Mr. Chew of aiding CCP propaganda and reinforcing body dysmorphia, drug abuse and poor mental health or suicide in the U.S., among other accusations.
https://www.tiktok.com/embed/7213921412472458538 https://www.tiktok.com/embed/7213950818633157934 https://www.tiktok.com/embed/7213840896117214506
 NBC News – Biden signs TikTok ban for government devices, setting up a chaotic 2023 for the app
 CNBC – White House gives agencies 30 days to impose federal device TikTok ban
 BBC – UK ministers banned from using Chinese-owned app on government phones
 The Hill – House panel to debate bill allowing president to ban TikTok
 NBC News – TikTok CEO describes 'Project Texas' plan to store U.S. data 'on American soil'
 Twitter – @RNCResearch
 TikTok – @owens_tiktok
 TikTok – @klassenkrieger
 Australian Senate – TikTok, ByteDance, and their ties to the Chinese Communist Party
 Twitter – @RNCResearch
 TikTok – @motherboardvice
 Fox News – TikTok CEO torched over threat video…
 TikTok – @cnetdotcom
 TikTok – @lisaremillard
 Twitter – @dorogami_
 TikTok – @wiggiediego
 TikTok – @chica_number_7
 TikTok – @freespeakingtips
 Twitter – @Dreadful4Tymes
 Twitter – @iDrankPolitics
Mar 24, 2023 at 11:07AM EDT
Mar 24, 2023 at 11:52AM EDT
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