TikTok CEO vows to 'prevail' and defeat US restrictions

TikTok's CEO Shou Zi Chew posted a video response Wednesday to the news of the US Senate voting to ban the shot form video app in the US unless its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance divest from TikTok over the next nine months to a year.

The CEO says the company expects to win a legal challenge to block the new legislation, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden Wednesday.

The new bill gives China-based ByteDance 270 days to divest TikTok's US assets or face a ban.

"Rest assured - we aren't going anywhere," CEO Shou Zi Chew said in a video posted moments after Biden signed the bill. "The facts and the Constitution are on our side and we expect to prevail again" he said.

Chew says a ban would take TikTok away from the 170 million Americans who use the platform for “community and connection” and giving Americans “a powerful voice to be seen and heard.”

Chew also mentioned the seven million business owners who rely on TikTok for their livelihoods. He called on users to create videos showing how TikTok has positively impacted their lives.

“This is a ban on TikTok, a ban on you, your voice,” Shew said, reiterating that for US lawmakers who sponsored the bill, a TikTok ban is their ultimate goal.

“It’s actually ironic,” the CEO pointed out. ”The freedom of expression on TikTok reflects the same American values that make the United States a beacon of freedom,” he said.

Chew also spoke about the company’s efforts to adhere to US lawmakers previous demands on how TikTok stores the data on Americans on US soil.

“Though our US data security efforts, we have built safeguards that no other peer company has made,” adding that the company has invested billions of dollars to secure Americans’ data and keep the platform free from “outside manipulation.”

Biden's signing sets a January 19th deadline for a sale - one day before his term is set to expire - but he could extend the deadline by three months if he determines ByteDance is making progress. Biden is seeking a second term against former President Donald Trump.

In 2020, Trump was blocked by the courts in his bid to ban TikTok and Chinese-owned WeChat, a unit of Tencent, in the United States.

Chew emphasized that TikTok would continue to operate as the company challenges the restrictions.

Driven by widespread worries among US lawmakers that China could access Americans' data or surveil them with the app, the bill was overwhelmingly passed late on Tuesday by the US Senate. The US House of Representatives approved it on Saturday.

The battle over TikTok

The four-year battle over TikTok is a significant front in a war over the internet and technology between Washington and Beijing. Last week, Apple said China had ordered it to remove Meta Platforms' WhatsApp and Threads from its App Store in China over Chinese national security concerns.

TikTok is set to challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds and TikTok users are also expected to again take legal action. A US judge in Montana in November blocked a state ban on TikTok, citing free-speech grounds.

The American Civil Liberties Union said banning or requiring divestiture of TikTok would "set an alarming global precedent for excessive government control over social media platforms."

However, the new legislation is likely to give the Biden administration a stronger legal footing to ban TikTok if ByteDance fails to divest the app, experts say.

If ByteDance failed to divest TikTok, app stores operated by Apple, Alphabet's Google and others could not legally offer TikTok or provide Web hosting services to ByteDance-controlled applications or TikTok's website.

The bill would also give the White House new tools to ban or force the sale of other foreign-owned apps it deems to be security threats.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said he was concerned the bill "provides broad authority that could be abused by a future administration to violate Americans’ First Amendment rights."

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Monday that President Joe Biden was "pushing" for a ban on TikTok and would be the one responsible if a ban were imposed, urging voters to take notice.

Biden's re-election campaign plans to continue using TikTok, a campaign official said on Wednesday. Trump's campaign has not joined TikTok.

Biden signed legislation in late 2022 that barred US government employees from using TikTok on government phones.

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