June 2, 2023
'Not China…': TikTok CEO testifies before Congress for 1st time | World News

U.S. lawmakers grilled the CEO of TikTok over information safety and dangerous content material Thursday, responding skeptically throughout a tense committee listening to to his assurances that the vastly fashionable video-sharing app prioritizes person security and shouldn’t be banned.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies earlier than the Home Power and Commerce Committee listening to on “TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Information Privateness and Defend Kids from On-line Harms,”. (AP)

Shou Zi Chew’s testimony got here at a vital time for the corporate, which has acquired 150 million American customers however is underneath rising strain from U.S. officers. TikTok and its father or mother firm ByteDance have been swept up in a wider geopolitical battle between Beijing and Washington over commerce and know-how.

In a uncommon bipartisan effort to reign within the energy of a significant social media platform, Republican and Democratic lawmakers pressed Chew on a bunch of subjects, starting from TikTok’s content material moderation practices, how the corporate plans to safe American information from Beijing, and its spying on journalists.

“Mr. Chew, you might be right here as a result of the American folks want the reality concerning the menace TikTok poses to our nationwide and private safety,” Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, stated in her opening assertion. “TikTok has repeatedly chosen a path for extra management, extra surveillance and extra manipulation.”

Chew, a 40-year-old Singapore native, instructed the Home Committee on Power and Commerce that TikTok prioritizes the protection of its younger customers and denied allegations that it is a nationwide safety threat. He reiterated the corporate’s plan to guard U.S. person information by storing all such info on servers maintained and owned by the software program big Oracle.

“Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance will not be an agent of China or some other nation,” Chew stated.

Additionally learn: Why international locations suppose TikTok is a nationwide safety menace

On Wednesday, the corporate despatched dozens of fashionable TikTokers to Capitol Hill to foyer lawmakers to protect the platform. It has additionally been placing up advertisements throughout Washington that promise to safe customers’ information and privateness, and create a protected platform for its younger customers.

TikTok has been dogged by claims that its Chinese language possession means person information might find yourself within the palms of the Chinese language authorities or that it could possibly be used to advertise narratives favorable to the nation’s Communist leaders.

In 2019, the Guardian reported that TikTok was instructing its moderators to censor movies that point out Tiananmen Sq. and different photos unfavorable to the Chinese language authorities. The platform says it has since modified its moderation practices.

ByteDance admitted in December that it fired 4 staff final summer season who accessed information on two journalists, in addition to different folks linked to them, whereas trying to trace down the supply of a leaked report concerning the firm.

For its half, TikTok has been attempting to distance itself from its Chinese language origins, saying that 60% p.c of its father or mother firm ByteDance is owned by world institutional buyers comparable to Carlyle Group. ByteDance was based by Chinese language entrepreneurs in Beijing in 2012. Responding to a Wall Road Journal report, China stated it might oppose any U.S. makes an attempt to power ByteDance to promote the app.

Chew pushed again in opposition to the concept that TikTok’s possession was a difficulty in itself.

“Belief is about actions we take,” Chew stated. “Possession will not be on the core of addressing these considerations.”

In one of the dramatic moments, Republican Rep. Kat Cammack displayed a TikTok video that confirmed a capturing gun and a caption that included the Home committee holding the listening to, with the precise date earlier than it was formally introduced.

“You anticipate us to imagine that you’re able to sustaining the information safety, privateness and safety of 150 million Individuals the place you may’t even shield the folks on this room,” Cammack stated to Chew.

Lawmakers sought to color an image of TikTok as a Chinese language-influenced firm curious about gaining revenue at the price of Individuals’ psychological and bodily well being. Committee members confirmed a bunch of TikTok movies that inspired customers to hurt themselves and commit suicide. Many questioned why the platform’s Chinese language counterpart, Douyin, doesn’t have the identical controversial and probably harmful content material because the American product.

Chew responded that it depends upon the legal guidelines of the nation the place the app is working. He stated the corporate has about 40,000 moderators that monitor dangerous content material in addition to an algorithm that flags materials.

“I don’t suppose I can sit right here and say that we’re good in doing this,” Chew stated. “We do work very laborious.”

A U.S. ban on an app can be unprecedented and it’s unclear how the federal government would implement it.

Consultants say officers might attempt to power Apple and Google to take away TikTok from their app shops. The U.S. might additionally block entry to TikTok’s infrastructure and information, seize its domains or power web service suppliers like Comcast and Verizon to filter TikTok information site visitors, stated Ahmed Ghappour, a prison regulation and pc safety skilled who lecturers at Boston College Faculty of Regulation.

However a tech savvy person might nonetheless get round restrictions by utilizing a digital non-public community to make it seem the person is in a foreign country the place it is not blocked, he stated.

To keep away from a ban, TikTok has been attempting to promote officers on a $1.5 billion plan known as Challenge Texas, which routes all U.S. person information to home servers owned and maintained by Oracle. Below the challenge, entry to U.S. information is managed by U.S. staff by a separate entity known as TikTok U.S. Information Safety, which employs 1,500 folks, is run independently of ByteDance and can be monitored by exterior observers.

As of October, all new U.S. person information was being saved contained in the nation. The corporate began deleting all historic U.S. person information from non-Oracle servers this month, in a course of anticipated to be accomplished later this yr, Chew stated.

Typically, researchers have stated TikTok behaves like different social media corporations with regards to information assortment. In an evaluation launched in 2021, the College of Toronto’s nonprofit Citizen Lab discovered TikTok and Fb acquire related quantities of person information.

To dam such monitoring, Congress, the White Home, U.S. armed forces and greater than half of U.S. states have banned using the app from official units.

Additionally learn: India to UK, TikTok banned in these international locations; Pak blocked Chinese language app 4 instances!

However wiping away all the information monitoring related to the platform may show tough. In a report launched this month, the Cybersecurity firm Feroot stated so-called monitoring pixels from ByteDance, which acquire person info, have been discovered on 30 U.S state web sites, together with some the place the app has been banned.

Different international locations together with Denmark, Canada, Nice Britain and New Zealand, together with the European Union, have already banned TikTok from units issued to authorities staff.

David Kennedy, a former authorities intelligence officer who runs the cybersecurity firm TrustedSec, agrees with proscribing TikTok entry on government-issued telephones as a result of they may include delicate info. A nationwide ban, nonetheless, is perhaps too excessive, he stated.

“We’ve got Tesla in China, we’ve Microsoft in China, we’ve Apple in China. Are they going to start out banning us now?” Kennedy stated. “It might escalate in a short time.”