By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said the Chinese-owned short video app company faces a pivotal moment as a growing number of U.S. lawmakers seek to ban the popular app over national security concerns.
Chew said in a video posted on TikTok early Tuesday the app now has more than 150 million active monthly U.S. users. “That’s almost half the U.S. coming to TikTok,” Chew said. TikTok in 2020 said it had 100 million U.S. users.
Chew, who will testify Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said: “Some politicians have started talking about banning TikTok.”
“Now this could take TikTok away from all 150 million of you,” he said in the video that features the U.S. Capitol in the background.
He asked TikTok users to leave comments about what they wanted U.S. lawmakers to know about “what you love about TikTok.”
Chew also said 5 million U.S. businesses use TikTok to reach customers.
TikTok’s critics fear its U.S. user data could be passed on to China’s government by the app, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance. TikTok rejects the spying allegations.
TikTok also said Tuesday it had updated its community use guidelines and offered more details of its plans to secure the data of U.S. users. The company said it had started to delete this month U.S. user protected data in data centers in Virginia and Singapore after it started routing new U.S. data to the Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) Cloud last year.
Last week, TikTok said the Biden administration demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stake in the app or it could face a U.S. ban.
TikTok, which has said it has spent more than $1.5 billion on rigorous data security efforts, said “if protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access.”
A growing number of U.S. lawmakers support a ban on TikTok. This includes Energy and Commerce Committee chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, congressional aides told reporters on a call Monday. On Friday, six more U.S. senators backed bipartisan legislation to give Biden new powers to ban TikTok.
On March 1, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee voted along party lines to give President Joe Biden new powers to ban TikTok.