TikTok CEO Shou Chew vowed Tuesday that his company’s legal battle against Montana will succeed, after the state passed a law that would ban the app from personal devices starting in January.
In an onstage interview with Bloomberg at the Qatar Economic Forum, Chew reiterated the company’s view that the Montana ban is unconstitutional.
“We believe that the Montana bill that was recently passed is simply unconstitutional,” Chew said. “And as you pointed out, we very recently filed a lawsuit to challenge this in the courts. And we are confident that we will prevail.”
Chew also recognized a separate lawsuit filed by several TikTok content creators last week that claims the state law is unconstitutional.
“They care, because TikTok is really important to them,” Chew said, adding that five million small businesses in the United States “depend on TikTok.”
In response to TikTok’s lawsuit, Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Montana’s Attorney General, previously told CNN: “We expected legal challenges and are fully prepared to defend the law that helps protect Montanans’ privacy and security.”
The Montana law stems from growing criticism of TikTok over its ties to China through its parent company, ByteDance. Many US officials have expressed fears that the Chinese government could potentially access US data via TikTok for spying purposes, though there is no evidence that the Chinese government has ever done so. Some federal lawmakers have also called for a ban.
Chew has previously said that the Chinese government has never asked TikTok for its data, and that the company would refuse any such request. He has also stressed TikTok’s independence from China to lawmakers and attempted to play up its US ties.
On Tuesday, Chew said the US tech giant Oracle “has begun to review” TikTok’s source code as part of the company’s wider Project Texas initiative, which is intended to assure US government officials that user data is sufficiently protected from unauthorized access, particularly by China or its agents. Chew described Project Texas as “on track,” contrary to a Bloomberg report last week that suggested it had stalled.
Asked to reflect on his experience testifying before a hostile House committee in March, Chew described it as a “good opportunity for us to explain ourselves.”
“I think it was a very important process, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to show up and tell our side of the story,” he said.
On the topic of artificial intelligence, Chew suggested that “some form of thoughtful, careful regulation is necessary” but that rules should not risk “killing off the innovation of something that could be so exciting for all of us.”