On Thursday, Tik Tok CEO Shou Chew made his first appearance before Congress and expressed deep scepticism about his company’s attempts to ease concerns about its connection with China and protect US users’ data.
After the US government asked to ban Tik Tok, the company’s CEO, who is rarely seen giving interviews, appeared for the first time, sharing his views. Let’s check out the five takeaways from him.
1. Tik Tok’s Data Collecting Practices are no Different than Other Tech Giants
Talking about the video-sharing app’s data collecting practices, Shou said we’re committed to being transparent with our user’s data. We don’t believe that we collect more than other tech giants in the industry.
According to a 2022 Washington Post, Tik Tok doesn’t appear to collect anything different than typical mainstream social networks. A technical analysis by Taiwan researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab also came to the same conclusion.
However, Tik Tok also collects the same amount of data, including private messages, comments and videos, as Twitter or Facebook do.
2. Congress wasn’t Interested in Tik Tok CEO’s Answers
Tik Tok personnel worked on polishing Shou’s presentation to prepare him for his first appearance on Thursday. They prepared Shou with practice queries and scenarios to make him ready for hours of interrogation.
But Congress was still not interested in listening to his answers.
A Democrat from California, Tony Cardenas, compared Shou Chew’s indirect answers to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who also frustrated some of the Congress’s members in the past.
Tony said you are among the few people to unite this community, and you remind me a lot of Mark Zuckerberg. When Mark comes here, he reminds me of a good dancer with words, Fred Astaire.
And today, Shou is doing the same; many of his answers are a bit nebulous as they are not even yes or no.
As both Shou and Mark are leading major social media platforms, Mark was already famous after facing lawmakers back in 2018, while Shou has always stayed out of the spotlight before taking the helm of Tik Tok in 2021.
3. Washington Clearly Said Tik Tok Should be Banned
The Tik Tok CEO’s first appearance in the hearing lasted more than five hours and kicked off with calls from lawmakers to ban the app in the United States.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican, opened Thursday’s hearing with a statement, your platform (Tik Tok) should be banned. In response to her opening remarks, Shou said the platform is not present in mainland China.
He added our approach has never been to dismiss concerns about the potential for unwanted foreign access to US users’ data.
According to a theory, Tik Tok doesn’t operate in China, but still, the Chinese government can enjoy the leverages under its jurisdiction. It results in the platform being forced to cooperate with a wide range of security activities, such as transferring users’ data.
Rodgers made a statement that Americans watching today must hear that Tik Tok is a weapon by the Chinese Communist party, which is spying, manipulating and exploiting you for future generations.
4. Tik Tok’s Impact on Children
Many Lawmakers also highlighted the concerns about Tik Tok’s impact on children.
Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democratic Rep., said according to research, Tik Tok’s algorithm recommends videos, exacerbating feelings of emotional distress, such as eating disorders and self-harm.
A Republican from Ohio, Bob Latta, also accused Tik Tok of promoting a blackout challenge video, as a 10-year-old girl from Pennsylvania died while trying to mimic the challenge.
Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from Florida, told Tik Tok CEO that your platform is literally leading to death. In response to these allegations, the platform recently launched several features to provide additional safety for young users.
These features include setting a 60-minute daily time limit for children under 18.
5. Federal Authorities Ramped up Rhetoric about Tik Tok
Even after leaving the hearing room, federal authorities were ramping up their rhetoric about the platform. Antony Blinken, US Secretary of the United States, made a statement that Tik Tok should be ended one way or another, but there are different ways to do that.
He said it would not be enough for Tik Tok to be divested from its Chinese parent company. However, the majority of US diplomats believe that the app is a threat to US national security, which clearly shows it should be banned.