TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday that “spying” is not the right word for alleged Chinese surveillance of Americans using his company’s social media platform.
Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL) asked Chew if TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has spied on American citizens.
“I don’t think that ‘spying’ is the right way to describe it,” Chew said.
Dunn asked about a report that the FBI and Justice Department are investigating ByteDance after the company acknowledged firing four employees for using the controversial app to track the location of two journalists in the United States.
Breitbart News’s Lucas Nolan reported last week:
After ByteDance admitted that its employees had improperly accessed the data of U.S. users, congressional critics began to express concerns about TikTok’s surveillance practices. Forbes reports that the DOJ has served subpoenas to ByteDance. However, it’s still unclear how far the investigation into the incident has gone. The FBI has also interviewed people in connection with the matter, though it is not yet clear if these interviews are a part of the same investigation.
In a statement, a ByteDance spokesperson addressed the issue, stating, “We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved, and they are no longer employed at ByteDance.” The spokesperson also confirmed that the company’s internal investigation is ongoing, and ByteDance is committed to cooperating with any official investigations when brought to them.
Concerns over the national security and privacy implications of TikTok have reached a fever pitch in Washington, DC as lawmakers have continued to consider if the legislative branch needs to pursue an outright ban of TikTok or privacy legislation to address the concerns surrounding the popular yet controversial app. Others have called for separating TikTok from ByteDance.
During the hearing, Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) also slammed TikTok for hosting dangerous trends that have killed American teens and children
As House lawmakers continued to question the TikTok CEO, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) called on lawmakers to stop using TikTok, describing it as one of the “biggest geopolitical threats America has ever faced.”
TikTok CEO on defense over security, censorship claims at hearing
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced intense questioning and found few, if any, allies in the room while testifying for several hours before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.
One lawmaker quipped partway through the hearing that the TikTok head was addressing “the most bipartisan committee in Congress” amid numerous testy exchanges with members of the panel from both parties.
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) called TikTok an “extension” of the Chinese Communist Party while Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) questioned whether the platform used content moderation tools to remove posts about the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur ethnic group or the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Multiple members voiced support for legislation to ban the video-sharing app in the U.S., something the Biden administration has weighed. Chinese officials said before the hearing they would fiercely oppose any forced sale of the platform by its Chinese parent company ByteDance.
TikTok is currently banned from federal government-owned devices and government devices in some states.
Chew maintained during the hearing that the Chinese government doesn’t have access to TikTok users’ data via ByteDance and sought to tout efforts the company has taken to protect younger and vulnerable users.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union and 15 other organizations sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers not to place a nationwide ban on the platform, arguing it’d have “serious ramifications for free expression.”
Watch the TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s US Congressional Hearing here
TikTok and its data-collection capabilities have made it a hot button issue, especially among United States politics. A ban on the app in the US has been in debate for several years already, but the conversation has become especially heated recently, leading members of the US congress to call TikTok CEO Shou Chew to stand before House Energy & Commerce Committee and testify in regards to the app’s security, privacy, and data-collection. You can see that hearing as it happens right here.