The CEO of TikTok on Tuesday met with several European Union officials about its tough new digital regulations in the 27-nation bloc, as the Chinese-owned social media app faces growing scrutiny from Western authorities over privacy, cybersecurity and privacy issues exposed to the spread of misinformation.
In different Sessions in Brussels, Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok and four EU executive commission officials discussed concerns ranging from child safety to investigations into user data flowing into China, according to European readouts from two of the meetings and tweets from a third.
TikTok is hugely popular among young people, but its Chinese ownership has sparked fears that Beijing could use it to collect user data or spread pro-Chinese narratives or misinformation. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020.
US states including Kansas, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Virginia have voted to ban the video sharing app from state-issued devices for government employeesand it would also be banned from most US government devices under a Congressional spending law.
Fears were fueled last year by news reports that a China-based team had abusively accessed data from US TikTok users, including two journalists, as part of a covert surveillance program to track down the source of leaks to the press.
There are also concerns that the company is sending bulk user data to China in violation of strict European data protection rules. EU data protection officials in Ireland have opened two investigations into TikTok, including one over the transfer of personal data to China.
“I count on TikTok to fully honor its commitments to go one step further in complying with EU law and to regain trust in European regulators,” said Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova after meeting with chew “There is no doubt that data from users in Europe is safe and not exposed to illegal access by authorities from third countries.”
Caroline Greer, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at TikTok, said on Twitter it was a “constructive and helpful meeting.”
“Online safety and building trust are our top priorities,” Greer tweeted.
The company has said it takes data security “incredibly seriously” and fired the ByteDance employees involved in the abusive access to user data.
Jourova said she also grilled Chew about child safety, the spread of Russian disinformation on the platform and the transparency of paid political content.
Executive Vice President of Competition and Antitrust Affairs Margrethe Vestager met with Chew to “review how the company is preparing to meet its obligations under the European Commission’s regulation, namely the Digital Services Act and potentially the Digital Services Act markets to comply. ”
The Digital Services Act aims to remove toxic content from online platforms and the Digital Markets Act seeks to rein in the power of big digital companies.
They also discussed privacy and data transfer obligations in relation to recent news reports of “aggressive data collection and surveillance in the United States,” the ad said.
Chew also met Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.
Reynders tweeted that he “insisted on the importance” of TikTok fully complying with EU data protection rules and working with the Irish regulator.
“We also took stock of the company’s commitments to combat hate speech online and to ensure the protection of all consumers, including children,” he said.
Chew is expected to video chat with Digital Policy Commissioner Thierry Breton on January 19.
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