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TikTok defends itself against accusations of Chinese influence

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The gloves are coming off

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

On Thursday, TikTok fired back after weeks of attacks from Congress over the company’s ties to the Chinese government. In a blog post, TikTok maintained that it doesn’t censor content critical of the Chinese government, and that none of its operations are subject to Chinese law.

On Wednesday, senior senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) penned a letter to US intelligence officials asking that they investigate TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, for possible national security threats. It was the latest move from policymakers targeting the Chinese video-sharing app that has spurred a wave of anxiety in Congress as the social network only continues to grow in popularity with American users.

“At TikTok, we take these issues incredibly seriously,” the blog posts reads. “We are committed to transparency and accountability in how we support our TikTok users in the US and around the world. In light of recent claims, we believe it is critical to set the record straight on some specific issues.”

Senators like Schumer, Cotton, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have primarily been concerned over allegations of censorship and data insecurity at TikTok. But in its latest statement, TikTok denies that any data on US users can be accessed by the Chinese government. “We store all TikTok US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore,” the blog post read. “Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law.”

Earlier this month, Rubio wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review TikTok’s acquisition of Musical.ly over concerns that the now-relaunched app is censoring content that is critical of the Chinese government or which includes discussion of topics like Tiananmen Square or the Hong Kong protests. In an earlier statement, TikTok maintained that its moderators receive no input from the Chinese government, and used Thursday’s blog post to further push back against these allegations.

“We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period,” the blog post reads.