What to know about today’s Congressional hearing on TikTok
Shou Chew, the chief executive of TikTok, will testify before Congress for the first time on Thursday, in an appearance that is expected to reflect US lawmakers’ growing distrust of the short-form video app’s Chinese ownership.
The hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will give lawmakers a rare opportunity to directly ask Mr. Chew questions about TikTok’s relationship with its Chinese owner, ByteDance. as well as on the management by the application of the sensitive United States. user data and the risks it may pose to adolescents and children.
TikTok is working to secure its future in the United States, one of its biggest markets, where it says it has 150 million users and has become a culture-making machine. But lawmakers have questions about ByteDance’s ties to the Chinese government and whether those could put U.S. TikTok user data into the hands of officials in Beijing. US intelligence officials like FBI Director Christopher A. Wray have also warned that the Chinese government could use TikTok’s algorithm for “influence operations”.
TikTok, which was initially hailed as China’s first global internet success story, has come to represent the growing gap between the United States and China in technological leadership and national security. The app has become a battleground in a tech cold war between the two countries, with US threats to ban TikTok a reminder of how China has long blocked many US platforms.
To continue operating in the United States under ByteDance ownership, TikTok has sought approval from a group of federal agencies known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, for a plan. called Project Texas. This plan outlines how TikTok will prevent the Chinese government from accessing U.S. user data or interfering with content recommendations, under the supervision of government-approved officials and third-party auditors.
The plan was not approved. Last week, it emerged that the Biden administration wanted Chinese-owned TikTok to sell the app or face a possible ban.
Amid the lack of resolve, more than two dozen states, several colleges and Congress have enacted bans on TikTok in recent months. The White House also recently backed a bipartisan Senate bill that would give the administration more power to deal with TikTok, including a possible ban.
At Thursday’s hearing, Mr Chew, a Singaporean who continues to live in the country, could also be asked about ByteDance’s surveillance of American journalists, which is being investigated by the Justice Department. . The company admitted in December that Chinese employees of ByteDance had retrieved sensitive data from US TikTok users, including journalists, in an attempt to find a leak.
On Tuesday, Mr Chew posted a TikTok to the company’s main account, which has 69.2 million followers. He called the moment “pivotal” and said TikTok could go away but it would be a testament to the app’s efforts to protect Americans. He asked users to share what they liked about TikTok in the comments. TikTok also flew dozens of creators to Washington after weeks of recruiting and held press conferences with them.
The chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican from Washington.
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