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Senators Question TikTok on ByteDance Ties Amid Executive Shifts

On Tuesday, Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sought clarification from TikTok regarding its relationship with parent company ByteDance, based in Beijing. This inquiry follows the Wall Street Journal's revelation that several ByteDance executives have transitioned to prominent roles at TikTok, some relocating from China to the U.S.


These transitions have raised eyebrows among U.S. TikTok employees, especially since TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew had previously emphasized to Congress the distinction between TikTok and ByteDance.


Addressing Chew, Blackburn and Blumenthal stated, “Given the recent relocation of several ByteDance executives to the U.S., there seems to be a discrepancy between what has been conveyed to the public and Congress about TikTok's independence from ByteDance.”


Earlier this year, Chew defended TikTok before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, addressing concerns about data security, children's online protection, and potential national security threats. The primary apprehension about TikTok is its Chinese connection, considering China's national security laws that allow governmental data access.


However, Chew asserted that TikTok's data has never been accessed by the Chinese government.


He also referenced the company’s initiative, Project Texas, which collaborates with Oracle, a Texas-based software firm, to ensure the security of American user data.


Nevertheless, Blackburn and Blumenthal expressed that the recent transitions appear to be part of “a sequence of ambiguous actions and unfulfilled promises” by TikTok. They mentioned, “These shifts suggest a potential effort by TikTok to maintain ByteDance's influence while escaping scrutiny.”


In response, a TikTok representative mentioned their willingness to provide detailed insights to the Senators, commenting that such career moves across products or regions are standard for global enterprises and aren’t specific to TikTok.

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