TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before Congress yesterday where he was grilled about the app’s safety and Chinese ownership.
During five hours of testimony, Chew defended the app’s data collection and assured members that China does not have access to TikTok user data. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Sen. John Thune wrote the legislation that could ban TikTok, called the RESTRICT act. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the energy and commerce committee, delivered the opening remarks.
“We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values,” Rep. Rodgers said. “TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path of more control, more surveillance and more manipulation. Your platform should be banned.”
Chew said that TikTok collects as much data as any other social media platform and that a firewall was implemented two years ago to protect user data from unauthorized foreign access.
“Our approach has never been to dismiss or trivialize any of these concerns,” Chew said. “We have addressed them with real action. The bottom line is that this is American data stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American personnel.”
The hearing also touched on TikTok’s effect on younger audiences, with Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida saying that there is not enough content moderation.
“Your technology is literally leading to death,” Bilirakis said. “It is unacceptable, sir, that even after knowing all these dangers, you still claim that TikTok is something grand to behold.”
There are a few legislators who oppose the RESTRICT act such as New York Democrat Jamaal Bowman, who has 159,000 followers on the app. Bowman believes Congress should regulate social media giants instead of scapegoating TikTok.
Meanwhile, TikTok users defended Chew, saying he was not able to explain his responses as legislators interrupted him continuously. Users also said that legislators are disconnected from modern technology, with a clip of Rep. Richard Hudson asking Chew if TikTok can access a home WiFi network going viral.