Amid growing pressure from the US government, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is about to appear in a Congressional hearing for the first time. The hearing will be hosted by the White House Energy and Commerce Committee on 23rd March, Thursday at 10 AM ET.
Concerns about TikTok sharing foreign user data with the Chinese government aren’t new. However, the Biden administration has upped the pressure against the video-sharing platform in recent times.
Prior to the hearing, Chew has already issued his opening statements assuring that the company will continue working towards preventing any “unauthorized foreign access” to American user data. TikTok will strengthen its privacy and security practices and safeguard the safety of minors, he added.
Last year, leaked audio clips from TikTok’s internal meetings revealed that the company’s employees in China can potentially access data from US users. However, Chew emphasized that TikTok has never shared American user data with the Chinese government and never will.
Chew went on to assert that the company would refuse to comply if the Chinese government requested access to US user data.
Chew Likely to Face Harsh Questions and Criticism Over TikTok
Considering the Biden government’s strong stance against TikTok and the widespread concerns regarding user data privacy, the Congress won’t be going easy on TikTok. Chew is likely to field harsh questions from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers. The overall sentiment of the Congress regarding TikTok is clear from the title of the hearing – “TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms”.
TikTok’s future in the US largely hinges on how Chew fares at the hearing. Besides having to testify over the concerns regarding Chinese influence on the platform, the CEO would be receiving criticism spanning a variety of issues.
Security concerns will undoubtedly remain a top priority, but the impact of TikTok’s Chinese ownership on the mental health of the youth will be brought up too.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s leadership has already revealed its intention to grill TikTok over the latter’s measures to protect minors on the platform. Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers accused Big Tech companies like TikTok of using harmful algorithms to exploit kids for profit. Minors are consequently exposed to harmful content online, he added.
As of now, there’s no solid evidence of China gathering US user data through TikTok or deliberately using algorithms to shape the political behavior of the users. However, an internal investigation conducted by ByteDance last year revealed that employees at the Beijing headquarters had gathered data on a small number of American users.
Following the report, several Federal agencies launched probes against the company to further investigate potential privacy and security concerns. The future of TikTok in the US remains to be seen, but these are undoubtedly trying times for the company.