The US Congress began a hearing Thursday with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, amid fears in Washington that the company has ties to the Chinese government and undermine national security.
“TikTok has repeatedly gone down the path of more scrutiny, more surveillance, and more manipulation. Their platform should be banned,” Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said at the start of the hearing.
Shou Zi Chewa 40-year-old Singaporean, appeared before the committee to undergo hours of questioning by Republicans and Democrats, who fear Beijing could subvert the app for espionage or propaganda purposes.
Owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok is under enormous pressure in Western countries: government officials in the US, UK and Canada, as well as the European Commission, they were forced to remove the app from their devices.
British broadcaster the BBC advised its staff on Tuesday to remove TikTok from their phones. And Congressional administrative leadership has already vetoed downloading and using TikTok from government mobile devices, and bills were introduced in January and March seeking to ban its use across the country and limit the threat it poses. by technology from “enemies” such as China or Iran.
The most serious threat comes from the United States, whose government has given TikTok an ultimatum stop being chinese property or face a total ban in the country.
A ban would be an unprecedented move against a media company by Washington, as it would deprive 150 million monthly users in the country of an app that has become a cultural hotbed, especially for young people, and the main source of entertainment after Netflix.
“ByteDance is not an agent for China or any other country”Chew told the House committee.
“We believe what is needed are clear and transparent rules that broadly apply to all tech companies – ownership is not the focus of addressing these concerns,” he added.
“The CCP can collect sensitive information (from US TikTok users) and control what we ultimately see, hear and believe,” Cathy McMorris Rodgers said, referring to the Communist Party of China.
In a particularly awkward moment, Chew recognized that some personal data of Americans they were still subject to Chinese law, but he insisted that would soon change.
Congressmen also confronted Chew with dire examples of young users promoting suicide or dangerous exercise that proved fatal.
“Your technology is literally leading to death”Congressman Gus Bilirakis said as he pointed to a family in the audience whose son was killed in a train crash that relatives said was tied to TikTok.
Chew warned of the imposition of a ban on that platform in the country it would harm the economy and freedom of expression.
“It’s an app where people can be creative. There are nearly five million American companies, mostly small, that use it to find customers and drive growth,” he told the House of Energy and Commerce committee. there are about 150 million users in the United States.
Chew had met with some lawmakers this year to stress his company’s privacy and security guarantees, but this was his first official appearance inside the Capitol.
Ahead of the hearing, China’s Commerce Ministry said it would “strongly oppose” a forced sale, stressing that any sale or spin-off of TikTok it would require the approval of the Chinese authorities.
“Forcing the sale of TikTok (…) will seriously undermine the confidence of investors from various countries, including China, to invest in the US,” said Shu Jueting, spokesperson for the aforementioned portfolio.
A sale of the application, even with the agreement of all parties, would be very complicated, since separating the powerful algorithm of “TikTok and ByteDance It would be like a Siamese twin operation.”Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told AFP.
On Wednesday, a dozen teenagers, teachers and business owners addressed Congress to voice their opposition to banning the app and highlighted the benefits of TikTok for their lives and livelihoods.
“Are there other platforms? Absolutely, I’m in it, but none have the reach of TikTok”soap entrepreneur @countrylather2020 told his 70,000 followers in a video recorded soon after arriving in DC.
Chew promotes a business plan, known as Project Texas, to address national security concerns, whereby handling of user data on US soil would be limited to a US-run division.
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.