Here are the biggest bombshells from TikTok’s audience as Congress weighs banning the app in the US amid its security and privacy risks.
During Thursday’s House hearing in Washington, TikTok CEO Shou Chew faced nearly five hours of intense questioning from US lawmakers about the viral video app’s ties to its Chinese parent company and its handling. of user data.
The testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce came amid rare bipartisan support that reflects increased efforts on Capitol Hill to ban TikTok on US national security issues.
Bipartisan skepticism and calls to ban the app have grown since Donald Trump and his administration voiced speculation about the app during his 2020 presidency, during which he attempted to ban TikTok from the Apple and Google app stores unless it was approved. sold to an American buyer.
Now the Biden administration is tackling the matter with a similar but different approach, one that has been well researched by lawyers and coordinated with new bills in Congress that appear to have considerable bipartisan support.
Related: Who is the CEO of TikTok, Shou Chew? everything to know
In the weeks leading up to the hearing, the Biden administration proposed an ultimatum that echoed Trump’s failed attempt in 2020. The new lawsuit called for TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to sell the app or face a possible ban, preventing its approximately 150 million Americans from using it.
“If the goal is to protect national security, divestiture does not solve the problem: a change of ownership would not place new restrictions on data flows or access,” Maureen Shanahan, a spokeswoman for TikTok, said in a statement considering the proposal. . . Meanwhile, a Chinese government spokesperson announced before the hearing began that China would “resolutely oppose” any US plan to force the Chinese owner of TikTok to sell the app.
However, whether ByteDance opts to sell TikTok or the US bans it entirely, experts on the subject have raised concerns greater than those listed above, suggesting that selling or banning would only address part of TikTok’s concerns. security that Americans should consider regarding the growth of Chinese surveillance and its access to the personal data of US citizens through social media.
Since there is no US law that explicitly governs the access Beijing- or Moscow-based social media and technology employees have to the personal data of US citizens who use their services, the former chief security officer of Facebook leader Alex Stamos suggested that Biden and Congress pass a comprehensive review. privacy law (plus more transparency) to regain dominance in technology regulation and further control access to our nation’s critical data.
Here are the biggest bombshells from CEO Chew’s recent TikTok audience.
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Democrats and Republicans unite to ban TikTok
Chew’s intense questioning during the TikTok hearing in Washington united lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican parties.
“Mr. Chew, welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress,” said Republican Rep. Buddy Carter. Democratic representative Tony Cárdenas echoed: “You have been one of the few members to join this committee.”
Rep. GOP claims TikTok is ‘an extension of the Chinese Communist Party’
Before the start of the hearing, Chew, who was named CEO in May 2021, told Congress in written testimony that “ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.” He then explained TikTok’s updated data security model in contract with Oracle, an industry leader in cloud-based services, to store the data of US TikTok users.
However, Chew spent hours of the hearing trying to reassure lawmakers that TikTok does not pose a threat to its American users or share their data with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), despite Chew noting in his opening statement that he never has lived in China. (UK, US and his native Singapore only) nor does TikTok operate there.
“Since the Chinese government enjoys significant influence over companies under its jurisdiction, the theory goes that ByteDance, and thus indirectly TikTok, could be forced to cooperate with a wide range of security activities, including possibly the TikTok data transfer,” suggested CNN. .
Undeterred by Chew’s defense, Rep. McMorris Rodgers argued: “To the American people watching today, hear this: TikTok is a weapon of the Chinese Communist Party to spy on you, manipulate what you see, and exploit it for future generations.”
Chew responded that he has “reviewed” and “has not seen evidence that the Chinese government has access” to US user data. “They have never asked us, we have not provided it,” she added.
Related:Parents Sue TikTok After Their Daughters Die Doing ‘Blackout Challenge’: ‘We Want People To Know’
CEO Chew says TikTok collects precise locations from ‘a small percentage’ of users who haven’t updated the app
TikTok collects personal information from its users, such as phone numbers, email addresses, contacts, and WiFi networks, a practice not unlike other apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
However, US officials countered that Chinese law requires Beijing-based ByteDance to “make the app’s data available to the CCP,” CBS News reported. While the company is being investigated by the US Department of Justice for possible espionage, Chew admitted that he collects “a small percentage” of users’ precise location if I haven’t updated the app since 2020.
Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan asked if TikTok ever “provided the Chinese government with accurate GPS information collected from American users or inferences made from that data” at any point, to which Chew responded: “I can give you a straight answer – not up.”
Lawmakers claim TikTok is unsafe for teens and ‘leads to death’
Democratic Rep. Cárdenas accused Chew of avoiding questions based on evidence that TikTok and its algorithms have had a negative impact on children’s mental health, while Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette mentioned her company’s efforts to stop the dissemination of false information have not been effective.
“He just gave me sweeping statements that he’s investing, that he’s concerned, that he’s working,” DeGette said in response to Chew’s claim that the company was investing in content moderation and artificial intelligence to limit harmful content.
She added: “That’s not enough for me. That’s not enough for America’s parents.”
“Their technology literally leads to death,” Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis told Chew after presenting the committee with a series of TikTok videos that “seemed to glorify self-harm and suicide, or outright tell viewers to kill themselves.” described by Reuters.
Related:Parents Suing TikTok Over Teenage Son’s Death Make Emotional Appearance At Congressional Hearing
CEO Shou Chew Accused of Failing to Answer Questions During Hearing
In the midst of an exchange between Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) and Chew, Dunn told the TikTok CEO that he “hasn’t given straight answers; we don’t find him credible on these things,” to which Chew responded: ” You have not given me time to answer your questions, I reject these characterizations.”
The hearing turned into an interrogation by Republican and Democratic politicians that required a simple “yes” or “no” answer from Chew. The questions covered everything from access to US user data to security concerns with young users on the app.
Several of his responses were variations of “I can get in touch with you.” When Dunn asked Chew if “ByteDance [has] spied on US citizens,” the CEO replied, “I don’t think spying is the right way to describe it,” saying the employees were conducting “an internal investigation.”
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