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 January 31, 2023

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew agrees to testify before Congress over privacy and security worries

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House of Representatives over concerns about privacy and security on the social media platform, the Daily Wire reported. These worries surfaced in part because ByteDance, its Beiging-based parent company, has cozy ties to the Chinese government.

Lawmakers will conduct a hearing with Chew on March 23 as calls to ban the platform continue to grow. "ByteDance-owned TikTok has knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data," Rep Cathy McMorris Rogers, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement announcing the move.

"Americans deserve to know how these actions impact their privacy and data security, as well as what actions TikTok is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms," the Washington State Republican added. "We’ve made our concerns clear with TikTok. It is now time to continue the committee’s efforts to hold Big Tech accountable by bringing TikTok before the committee to provide complete and honest answers for people."

Lawmakers could seek answers for a previously uncovered plan for TikTok to track the location data of individual American citizens. ByteDance claimed it was targeted at former and current employees, but an investigation found one instance involving an American citizen with no employment ties to the company.

The popularity of TikTok has continued to increase even as these issues abound. Two years ago, the social media platform outperformed tech giant Google and others to become the most visited website in the world.

The format loads an endless stream of short videos based on an algorithm that tailors the content to each individual. This has created a host of concerns, including possibly sparking social contagions and impacting the mental health of young people.

It's also addictive, a fact that led Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) to dub TikTok "digital fentanyl." However, some government officials are most concerned about the security and privacy risks.

Christopher Wray, FBI director, has acknowledged TikTok's ability to gather user data that can be used to spy on officials as well as its ability to manipulate the user through content selection. State governments in Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Iowa have also banned TikTok from their employees' state-owned devices.

"TikTok is a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party," Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who sponsored a federal bill banning the app from government devices, said in a statement. "It’s a major security risk to the United States, and until it is forced to sever ties with China completely, it has no place on government devices."

President Joe Biden has already outlawed TikTok on federal employees' government-owned devices. This renewed push is an about-face for the administration, however.

Former President Donald Trump took flack after he used an executive order to institute the ban, Fox News reported. Wray and others have recently come around to the former president's way of thinking.

"All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that's very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States," he said of the data collection. "That should concern us," Wray said in December.

During a hearing in front of the Senate in September, TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas insisted that the CCP doesn't have access to their data. "We will never share data, period," Pappas claimed without any way to keep that promise.

TikTok is addictive, damaging, and possibly a threat to national security. Keeping it off of government devices is a good start, but it's questionable whether a platform with such problems should be allowed on any device in America at all.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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