A TikTok executive faced tough questions during the video-sharing app’s first appearance at a US congressional hearing on Tuesday, saying it does not pass on information to the Chinese government and demanding the protection of US data.
Senators at the hearing also expressed concerns that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based Internet technology company ByteDance, and YouTube and Snapchat, owned by Alphabet, have algorithms that could be harmful to young people.
TikTok’s head of public policy for America, Michael Beckerman, became the company’s first executive to appear before Congress, testifying to a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee. Republicans specifically pressed Beckerman over concerns about TikTok’s handling of data on the app’s users.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, the panel’s top Republican, said she is concerned about TikTok’s collection of data, including audio and user location, and its ability to gain access to Chinese government information. Blackburn asked Beckerman whether TikTok could resist giving data to China’s government if the content is solicited.
“We do not share information with the Chinese government,” Beckerman replied.
Under questioning by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Beckerman said TikTok has “no affiliation” with Beijing ByteDance Technology, a ByteDance entity on which the Chinese government took a stake and a board seat this year.
Beckerman also testified that TikTok’s US user data is stored in the United States, with backups in Singapore.
“We have a world-renowned US-based security team that handles the access,” Beckerman said.
Republican Senator John Thune said TikTok is probably more driven by content algorithms than Facebook, as the app is famous for quickly learning what users find interesting and offering them that type of video.
Beckerman said TikTok will be ready to provide the app’s algorithmic moderation policies so that it can be reviewed by independent experts by a Senate panel.
YouTube and Snapchat executives also testified. In a show of bipartisanship, senators from both parties, including Democratic panel chairman Richard Blumenthal, accused the three companies of exposing youth to bullying and sometimes inciting them to information that leads to harmful behavior such as sex games or encourages anorexia.
Officials responded that their companies sought to create a fun experience and exclude dangerous or tasteless content.
Republican former President Donald Trump has sought a ban on TikTok, the popular platform used by millions of Americans to post short videos, from the US App Store, saying it has collected data from US users that were received by the Chinese government. and may pose a threat to a US citizen. the protection.
Democratic President Joe Biden later slammed Trump’s plan, but called for a comprehensive review of various foreign-controlled apps.
© Thomson Reuters 2021