TikTok CEO Claims 150 Million US Users Ahead of Congressional Testimony

CEO Shou Chew points out that more than half of Americans use the video-sharing app in face of threatened ban

The TikTok logo is displayed outside a TikTok office on December 20, 2022 in Culver City, California
Mario Tama/Getty Images

More than 150 million Americans are on TikTok – almost half of the U.S., CEO Shou Chew said in a video posted on the platform Tuesday ahead of his scheduled appearance before Congress.

Standing on what appears to be a rooftop in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Capitol dome behind him, Chew noted that the figure represents “almost half of the U.S. coming to TikTok to connect, to create, to share, to learn, or just to have some fun.”

He said the user base on the Chinese-owned video sharing app includes five million businesses, most of which are small and medium-sized. The platform also has 7,000 U.S.-based employees, the CEO said.

“Now this comes at a pivotal moment for us,” Chew continued. “Some politicians have started talking about banning TikTok. Now, this could take TikTok away from all 150 million of you.”

Chew asked his followers to provide him with comments to share with elected officials about “what you love about TikTok.”

The addictive app is clearly hugely popular, but not so much among a growing cadre of representatives in Washington. Last week, the U.S. threatened to ban the app if its Chinese owner, ByteDance Ltd., doesn’t sell its stake.

Chew is scheduled to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday as part of a hearing that Committee Chair U.S. Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said will encompass issues surrounding consumer privacy and data security practices, the platforms’ impact on kids, and its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.

“Americans deserve to know the extent to which their privacy is jeopardized and their data is manipulated by ByteDance-owned TikTok’s relationship with China,” Rodgers said in a statement last week. “What’s worse, we know Big Tech companies, like TikTok, use harmful algorithms to exploit children for profit and expose them to dangerous content online. We need to know what actions the company is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms.”

The app is already banned from federal government-owned devices, with the deadline set last month by the White House for removing the app from phones and computers hitting next week. Several states have also nixed use of TikTok on government-owned devices. Canada has taken similar steps, along with the European Union’s executive branch.

Chew has said that divesting the company from its Chinese owners won’t provide more protection than its current plan to hire U.S.-based Oracle Corp. to store and safeguard user data. “I do welcome feedback on what other risk we are talking about that is not addressed by this,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “So far I haven’t heard anything that cannot actually be solved by this.”