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TikTok CEO tells Congress he will prioritize teen safety, lawmakers doubt it

Mar 23, 2023

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TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before the House of Representatives and received a bipartisan grilling. Lawmakers focused on data privacy concerns, protections for users, especially teenagers, and the company’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party.

“The American people need the truth about the threat TikTok poses to our national and personal security. TikTok collects nearly every data point imaginable, from people’s location, to what they type, and copy who they talk to, biometric data and more,” Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Ore., said. 

“TikTok collects and compiles vast troves of valuable personal information to create an addictive algorithm that is able to predict with uncanny accuracy which videos will keep users scrolling, even if the content is harmful, inaccurate, or feeds destructive behavior or extremist beliefs,” Ranking Member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said.

It has been proven that some content on the platform is harmful, such as so-called “challenges,” where users post videos doing dangerous tasks, like making themselves pass out. These challenges have lead to mental health issues, eating disorders and suicide.

Chew tried to put lawmakers at ease.

“We will keep safety, particularly for teenagers, as a top priority for us,” Chew said.

Chew also discussed his company’s efforts to put all American user data on Oracle servers in the United States, set up an independent American board, and have third parties, like Oracle, review their source code and algorithm to analyze how the platform displays data.

“Our approach has never been to dismiss or trivialize any of these concerns. We have addressed them with real action,” Chew said.  

But lawmakers weren’t buying it. They cited evidence that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance can access American user data at the click of a button. In addition, ByteDance employees have tracked journalists. TikTok also allowed a video that shows a gun targeting the committee and hearing itself to remain on the platform despite that calls for violence break the company’s policy.

“You damn well know that you cannot protect the data and security of this committee or the 150 million users of your app because it is an extension of the CCP,” Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., said.

Rodgers and Pallone want Congress to pass the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. It would give users more rights to access and delete their own data stored on the app. It also strengthens data protections for users under 17 years old.

The Biden administration recently told TikTok that its Chinese owners must spin off or divest their share of the company, or the app would be banned in the United States.

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TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before the House of Representatives, and he received a bipartisan grilling. 

Lawmakers focused on data privacy concerns, protections for users – especially teenagers, and the company’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party. 

Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers: “The American people need the truth about the threat tick tock poses to our national and personal security. Tick tock collects nearly every data point imaginable, from people’s location to what they type and copy who they talk to biometric data and more.”

Rep. Frank Pallone: “Tik Tok collects and compiles vast troves of valuable personal information to create an addictive algorithm that is able to predict with uncanny accuracy which videos will keep users scrolling, even if the content is harmful, inaccurate, or feeds destructive behavior or extremist beliefs.”


It’s been proven that some content on the platform is harmful. That includes what are called “challenges” where users take videos of themselves doing dangerous tasks like making themselves pass out. It has lead to mental health issues, eating disorders and suicide. 

 

Chew tried to put lawmakers at ease. 

Chew: “We will keep safety particularly for teenagers as a top priority for us.”

Chew also discussed his company’s efforts to put all American user data on Oracle servers in the United States, setting up an independent American board, and having third parties, like Oracle, review their source code and algorithm to analyze how the platform displays data. 

Shou Chew: “Our approach has never been to dismiss or trivialize any of these concerns. We have addressed them with real action.” 

But lawmakers weren’t buying it. They cited evidence that TikTok’s parent company Byte dance can access American user data at the click of a button, that they’ve tracked journalists, and allowed a video targeting the committee and hearing itself to remain on the platform, even though calls for violence breaks the company’s policy. 

Rep. Kat Cammack: “A very violent threat to the chairwoman of this committee and the members of this committee was posted on your platform you damn well know that you cannot protect the data and security of this committee or the 100 and 50 million users of your app because it is an extension of the CCP.” 

The committee’s chairwoman and ranking member want Congress to pass the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. It would give users more rights to access and delete their own data stored on the app. It also strengthens data protections for users under 17 years old. 

The Biden Administration also told TikTok that its Chinese owners must spin off or divest their share of the company, or the app would be banned in the United States. Straight from DC, I’m Ray Bogan.


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