TikTok CEO testifies in US Congress

Chew, CEO of Chinese social media platform TikTok, answered the questions of lawmakers at the session organized by the Energy and Commerce Committee of the US House of Representatives.

During the session, which lasted for approximately 5 and a half hours, the harsh attitude of both Republican and Democrat deputies towards Chew drew attention. Although Chew wanted to give long answers to the questions of the deputies, the deputies’ demand for clear answers as “yes” or “no” increased the tension in the session from time to time.

Chew’s responses on a number of issues, such as the Chinese-based technology company ByteDance and the company’s relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the transfer of US data to China, the negative impact of the platform on the mental health of young people and children, the blocking of harmful content and political content, have eluded lawmakers. did not satisfy.

– “TikTok should be banned”

The Chairman of the Committee, Republican Member of Parliament Cathy McMorris Rodgers, argued that TikTok spies on society by collecting data from Americans, and that the CCP uses this data as a tool to manipulate the USA.

Rodgers said, “TikTok has repeatedly opted for more control, more surveillance, and more manipulation. Your platform should be banned.” used the phrase. Claiming that many TikTok employees are affiliated with China, Rodgers said, “(TikTok) even censored an American teenager who exposed the CCP’s genocide and torture of Uighur Muslims.” said.

Democrat Deputy Frank Polland also emphasized that big technology companies such as TikTok generate billions of dollars in revenue with the data they obtain, but that they threaten the security, privacy and health of the American people.

– “TikTok respects freedom of expression”

Chew, on the other hand, asserted that TikTok is a platform that protects freedom of expression and that such content is not removed, “If you use our application, you will see that many users around the world produce content on this subject.” he said.

Stating that he is from Singapore and that the company’s head office is located in Singapore and Los Angeles, Chew noted that there are more than 150 million TikTok users in the USA and more than 1 billion in the world.

In the session, the lawmakers pointed out that TikTok’s algorithms target “addiction” and cause emotional difficulties, especially for young people, and asked Chew questions on this subject.

Chew argued that they are working to address concerns about TikTok’s algorithm and content control, while violent content and problems with algorithms are the general problem of social media platforms. Claiming that they contributed to the production of useful content especially for the education of young people in this context, Chew claimed that harmful content was removed as soon as it was detected.

In response to Chew’s statements, US lawmakers showed images of some content already circulating on TikTok and accused the company, saying that TikTok did not take the necessary steps in this regard.

Chew, on the other hand, stated that they will prioritize the safety of young people in particular, and that they will protect the data of Americans with a firewall against unwanted foreign access. Stating that they will also take steps regarding freedom of expression and that the content will not be manipulated by any government, Chew stated that they will also be transparent in this regard and allow access to third-party independent observers.

– The relationship between the CCP and TikTok has been questioned

Lawmakers claimed that ByteDance had ties to the CCP, questioning Chew about whether they had removed content from TikTok at the CCP’s request. “We do not develop or remove content at the request of the Chinese government,” Chew said. said.

Chew said he has not had any conversations with Chinese government officials, and when asked by lawmakers about ByteDance’s top executives’ affiliation with the CCP, “(Business) I cannot confirm this statement as I do not know the political affiliation of the people I interviewed.” he replied.

Noting that the Chinese government also saw no evidence that Americans had access to data, Chew emphasized that the CCP did not ask them for such a thing. Chew said that while answering lawmakers’ questions about US location information being stored, they did not collect data on location information.

Chew, on the other hand, stated that they work with Chinese engineers, as do many American companies, and said that they plan to store all of the American data within the scope of the “Texas Project” by the American company and under the supervision of American personnel. But lawmakers argued that this would not eliminate national security threats.

Confirming that they have shared data with companies they are affiliated with in the past, Chew reported that such access will disappear after the Texas Project. Chew stated that they spent 1.5 billion dollars on the project in question.

Chew, who denied lawmakers’ claims that TikTok gave Americans’ data to China, said that Americans’ data was stored on Oracle servers and spied on by American personnel.

“Did ByteDance spy on American citizens?” on a lawmaker’s access to ByteDance’s TikTok data. Asked Chew, “I don’t think it’s right to describe it as ‘spying’.” gave the answer.

– CEO reminded of the records of American companies

Lawmakers also asked Chew about his salary and additional income. Chew did not want to give clear information about his salary, but noted that his main source of income is his job at TikTok and the additional payments they receive from ByteDance, and he does not earn income from anywhere else.

“Are you afraid of the communist government of China?” Chew replied, “No.” gave the answer.

Regarding the FBI Director’s view that TikTok is controlled by the Chinese government, Chew said, “I think a lot of risks point to hypothetical and theoretical risks. I haven’t seen any evidence on this. I look forward to discussions where we can talk about the evidence.” made its assessment.

Chew, on the other hand, stated that he thinks that steps should be taken regarding privacy, and claimed that American companies do not have a good history in this regard, and he gave an example of “Cambridge Analytica”, which was accused of using the data collected without permission from the accounts of millions of Facebook users.

– CEO: “Government devices should not have social media applications”

Asked a lawmaker about removing the TikTok app on government devices, Chew replied, “Honestly, I think government devices shouldn’t have any social media apps, but that shouldn’t target us.” he replied.

On the other hand, one of the lawmakers asked, “Why don’t you let your 8-year-old use TikTok?” Chew replied, “My children live in Singapore. There is no ‘under 13 experience’ application in Singapore.” replied.

Chew claimed that the content on TikTok is “entertaining and informative”, implying that some of the issues are linked to internal US issues. On questions from lawmakers about drug trafficking on TikTok, Chew argued that his country Singapore has very strict drug bans, with almost no illegal drug content on TikTok.

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