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What’s Hot on TikTok? Defending Its C.E.O.


The most recent viral trend on TikTok is defending TikTok.

“Now’s the time to fight the ban on TikTok,” read a caption of a TikTok video that was posted on Thursday in regards to the app’s future. “#savetiktok #keeptiktok”

“Do I feel TikTok ought to be banned? No,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of Latest York, said on Friday in her first TikTok video, which netted greater than 3.7 million views.

Other TikTok users shared video montages of the app’s chief executive, Shou Chew, to the tune of pop songs and applied the “fancam” treatment typically reserved for celebrities.

Across TikTok, users have in recent days leaped to the defense of the favored video app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. In tons of of videos, they’ve argued that the app mustn’t be banned in the US over national security concerns, questioned why American social media apps aren’t facing similar scrutiny and expressed concerns that their First Amendment rights are under attack.

The outcry follows rising concerns from lawmakers and the Biden administration over whether TikTok provides sensitive data about American users to Chinese authorities. On Thursday, Mr. Chew appeared before Congress and was grilled for roughly five hours, with lawmakers questioning whether TikTok was spying on Americans on behalf of the Chinese government, endangering young individuals with toxic content and invading people’s privacy.

Mr. Chew said TikTok had a plan to guard American user data and denied that the Chinese government controlled ByteDance. But his answers were largely met with derision by lawmakers, fueling calls for TikTok to be banned entirely from Apple’s and Google’s app stores in the US. The Biden administration has also pushed for TikTok to be separated from ByteDance through a sale, a move that China has opposed, or for it to attempt to strike an agreement with the U.S. government over data security concerns.

But on TikTok itself, lawmakers’ concerns landed with a thud.

“There must be an age limit on congressional positions bc this was so embarrassing,” one user wrote within the caption of a video posted on Friday.

Many were solidly against a TikTok ban in the US. Doctors, self-defense experts, parenting influencers and others shared videos saying they were already researching ways to access the app even when it became banned and blamed Facebook and Google for the criticism.

The hashtag #TikTokBan had 1.7 billion views on Monday compared with 983 million views on March 18.

Many TikTok users also rallied behind Mr. Chew, who’s Singaporean. They highlighted lawmakers asking the chief yes or no questions after which interrupting him. Additionally they portrayed Mr. Chew’s responses as wins against uninformed lawmakers, who sometimes posed basic questions on the web.

And so they made their displeasure known of their videos. Some users cut together older photos of Mr. Chew and clips from the hearing with viral TikTok songs, like Chris Brown’s “Under the Influence.” One user posted videos of the “Schitt’s Creek” character David Rose sighing and rolling his eyes to specific disdain for lawmakers’ questions. One account shared a video of a young child responding to the clips with exasperation.

The response was probably what TikTok had hoped for. Mr. Chew, who has avoided the general public eye for much of his tenure as chief executive, posted a video last week on TikTok’s major account and told American users that lawmakers “could take TikTok away from all 150 million of you.” He posted one other video after the hearing, reiterating TikTok’s messages to lawmakers. Each video received greater than 25 million views.

“It seems clear that much of America didn’t experience the hearing the identical way many members of Congress and political insiders did,” Brooke Oberwetter, a spokeswoman for TikTok, said in a press release.

Mr. Chew’s messages were apparently taken to heart by some fans who posted on TikTok that they found him attractive. One video spliced photos of Mr. Chew to the beat of lyrics from the K-pop girl group Latest Jeans: “Oh my, oh my God, I used to be really hoping that he’ll come through.” The caption read, “Come through for us shou oppa,” referring to a Korean term for older men. It garnered greater than 4.3 million views.

Others called Mr. Chew, 40, who’s married with two children, a “zaddy,” a slang term that rhymes with “daddy” and refers to older, attractive men.

“If TikTok bad, why is he Effective???” one user posted in a video with three million-plus views. “shou zi chew didn’t chew he devoured,” one comment, which had some 29,000 likes, said under one other video supporting the TikTok chief executive.

Mr. Chew, who had fewer than 20,000 followers on his personal TikTok account on March 21, now has 557,000 followers, in accordance with Trendpop, a social media analytics firm.

TikTok users also mocked among the questions from lawmakers. One goal of their ire was Representative Richard Hudson, Republican of North Carolina, who asked Mr. Chew ultimately week’s hearing if TikTok “can access the house Wi-Fi network.” The exchange — including Mr. Chew’s puzzled response saying “provided that the user activates the Wi-Fi” — was shared in multiple posts.

One caption read, “We’re…not entirely sure…if Rep. Richard Hudson knows how TikTok OR WiFi works?” One other caption featured a series of wide-eyed blushing emojis.

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