Rubio asks DOJ to investigate possible perjury by TikTok CEO

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate possible perjury by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Rubio argued that Chew perjured himself during a congressional hearing when he testified under oath that the data of the social media platform’s American users were not stored in China.

Rubio cited a Forbes report published Tuesday that said TikTok stored American users’ most sensitive data, including their Social Security and tax identification numbers, in China, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can access them.

Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this year. Lawmakers from both parties pressed him on concerns about the platform which included national security threats, data privacy, the spread of misinformation and the safety for minors.

“We now know those statements are false, and that some sensitive data from American users was in fact stored in China, where, by law, that information could be accessed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” Rubio wrote in his letter. “According to that report, the information was stored on servers in China and accessible by employees of ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company.”

Rubio’s letter also highlighted that the CCP has close ties with TikTok, saying the Chinese government “harvested” the personal information of Americans and noting the 2015 hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which compromised the data of millions of American government workers and their families.

“This revelation further underscores the fact that TikTok is a powerful tool of espionage and influence for the CCP and should be banned.  Chew should be held accountable for making false statements about material facts related to TikTok’s operation, as he appears to have done in this case,” Rubio added.

“I therefore request that you investigate whether Chew committed perjury when he falsely stated that TikTok has not stored the user data of Americans in China and urge you to be transparent with the American people about the threats posed by TikTok.”

Multiple state governments and Congress has banned TikTok on government devices, citing national security concerns due to its Chinese owner, ByteDance.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation last month banning TikTok entirely, becoming the first U.S. state to block access to the app due to concerns about data privacy.

U.S. officials have had a rocky relationship with TikTok over the past year, beginning with the Trump administration’s failed attempt to implement a ban on the social media platform in 2020. The Biden administration recently demanded ByteDance to sell its stake in the company, warning that the social media platform could risk a potential ban in the U.S.

In a statement to The Hill, a TikTok spokesperson said the company remains “confident in the accuracy of Shou’s testimony.”

Updated at 12:33 p.m. EDT.

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