As security fears over ByteDance Ltd.’s popular app TikTok swirl around the corridors of U.S. government buildings, the company’s chief executive Shou Zi Chew is set to speak with Congress in March to perhaps attempt to placate those concerns.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers confirmed today that the meeting will take place March 23. This will be the first time any chief executive from TikTok has been grilled in front of lawmakers, with TikTok missing out on the occasions social media giants have been in the hot seat before.

Since the Chinese app took the world by storm a few years ago, its presence in the western media has often been in a negative light. When Donald Trump was President, he wanted to ban the app, citing national security concerns, amid a trade war with China. Late last year, several U.S. states banned the app on its government-issued devices, stating that there was a risk that TikTok was harvesting data on Americans in compliance with the Chinese Communist Party. TikTok has always strenuously denied any such thing happening.

The company held out an olive branch of sorts earlier this money when it proposed a  $1.5 billion plan to reorganize the company’s U.S. operations. This came shortly after anti-TikTok politicians in the U.S. were vindicated when the company had to fire four employees accused of improperly accessing the personal data of U.S. journalists. In February, a House foreign affairs committee will hold a vote on whether the app – with its biggest market in the U.S. – gets banned completely from the country.

It seems that Mr. Chew will have a lot of convincing to do when he appears on Capitol Hill, with fears about the app not only relating to national security issues but also what kind of an impact it has on the young. “Big Tech has increasingly become a destructive force in American society,” Rodgers said in a press release, adding that it’s time to better understand the possible harms of TikTok and if indeed it is working with the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data.

“We welcome the opportunity to set the record straight about TikTok, ByteDance, and the commitments we are making to address concerns about U.S. national security before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement to the media. “We hope that by sharing details of our comprehensive plans with the full Committee, Congress can take a more deliberative approach to the issues at hand.”

Photo: Alexander Shatov/Flickr

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