Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), held a full committee hearing titled “TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms.” Testifying on TikTok’s privacy and data security practices, impact on children, and relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was TikTok CEO Shou Chew.
The March 23 hearing came amidst rapidly growing concerns about TikTok’s practices and security. TikTok has met with widespread criticism from lawmakers and the public alike, multiple lawsuits, and threats of a ban from the Biden administration. S.686, the RESTRICT Act, was introduced on March 7, providing the legislative basis for significant empowerment of federal government to restrict information and communication technology products deemed a threat to national security.
TikTok is a subsidiary of ByteDance, a Chinese internet technology company with links to the Chinese Communist Party. With over one billion users on the platform, TikTok collects an enormous amount of data about content creators and their audiences. The committee investigated concerns that the collected data may be shared with the CCP, compromising user privacy and national security. The committee also raised questions into potential safety risks for children who access the app.
In a hearing described by the press as “harsher in tone” than usual, Republicans and Democrats alike pressed Mr. Chew with vigor. Lawmakers aggressively questioned whether TikTok is a tool for the CCP to manipulate America and whether, as Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) put it, its benefits outweigh its costs. Chair Rodgers set the tone for the hearing, calling for a ban of the platform and affirming that “We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values—values for freedom, human rights, and innovation.”
Watch highlights from the headline-grabbing hearing below:
I just pressed TikTok’s CEO about whether or not the Chinese Communist Party has access to U.S. user data.
He ADMITTED China has access to U.S. data. This should serve as a wake up call and alarm every single American. pic.twitter.com/qmEVEkSrvT
— U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (@boblatta) March 23, 2023
Trying to deflect from what is currently happening does not help earn trust.
Surveillance of American journalists does not earn trust either.
— Rep. Tim Walberg (@RepWalberg) March 23, 2023
On the CCP’s influence over TikTok through ByteDance:
.@DrNealDunnFL2: "Has ByteDance spied on American citizens?"
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew: "I don't think that spying is the right way to describe it." pic.twitter.com/23nvsd7bEG
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 23, 2023
TikTok source code is RIDDLED with back doors and CCP censorship devices.
Today, I questioned the CEO of TikTok during today’s @HouseCommerce hearing.
— Rep. Bill Johnson (@RepBillJohnson) March 23, 2023
TikTok CEO won't say if Chinese officials "had a role" in preparing his testimony to Congresspic.twitter.com/IdUTTPYqn1
— Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) March 23, 2023
On whether TikTok allows threats of violence to remain on its platform:
TikTok CEO Shou Chew claims TikTok “proactively removes” all “harmful content.”
Clearly, that is FALSE.
WATCH this TikTok inciting violence against the @HouseCommerce Committee hearing today.
It's been up since February 10th, 2023. pic.twitter.com/nO2CMOSm11
— Energy and Commerce Committee (@HouseCommerce) March 23, 2023
According to FCC Commissioner Brandon Carr, the hearing “could not have gone any worse” for TikTok. In the words of a former tech adviser for the Biden administration, “The future of TikTok in the U.S. is definitely dimmer and more uncertain today than it was yesterday.” In the coming days, expect robust debate over whether proposals to ban the social media platform open the door to more comprehensive federal government overreach. It could not be clearer that the United States government does not wish to be a friend to the platform—and that the conversation is far from over.
Watch the full hearing here.