Congress continues push to ban TikTok in the US

  • Yesterday TikTok CEO Shou Chew appeared before the US Congress House Committee of Energy and Commerce to explain the platform’s alleged ties to the Chinese government.
  • During the session, however, the CEO was grilled by Committee members with little to no evidence behind their claims.
  • As such, it appeared as if the die was already cast as the Committee chair said, “Your platform should be banned.”

This week could prove a critical one for TikTok if it wishes to avoid a ban in the United States.

At the time of writing the wildly popular social media platform is coming under heavy scrutiny by the US government over its alleged ties to China, and its supposed ability to nefariously track citizens that could potentially be exploited down the line.

These are but some of the questions that TikTok CEO Shou Chew had to field yesterday during an appearance in front of the Congress House Committee of Energy and Commerce, with the session lasting close to six hours. While Chew arrived under the pretence that he would be able to explain himself and the allegations that have been laid against his company, that was far from the case.

This as Committee Chair Cathy McMorris-Rodgers said, “Your platform should be banned,” during her opening statement. “I expect today you’ll say anything to avoid this outcome,” she added, intimating the fact that many members on the Committee had already made up their minds as to the fate of TikTok.

Speaking to The Verge on the matter, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “These tools are very, very powerful.”

“I’m not saying that they’re doing it right now. But why would we wait until President Xi and China says, ‘I’m ready to pull the trigger and invade Taiwan’?,” he added in reference to the allegations that TikTok has ties to the Chinese government via its parent company ByteDance. This is a similar sentiment echoed by many of the Committee members during yesterday’s session.

Regarding such claims, Chew said he was happy to discuss if actual evidence were to be brought forward.

“I think a lot of risks that are pointed out are hypothetical and theoretical risks. I have not seen any evidence. I am eagerly awaiting discussions where we can talk about evidence, and then we can address the concerns that are being raised,” Chew countered.

The CEO followed this up by correctly pointing out the past indiscretions of US-based social media platforms like Facebook, which has been at the centre of data-related controversies with Cambridge Analytica and a genocide in Myanmar. Facebook was issued a sizeable $5 billion fine by the FTC for some of its transgressions, but was never threatened with a ban, as TikTok has.

While we agree that the allegations of links to the Chinese government, as well as greater clarity around how data is collected, handled, stored, and shared with third parties warrant further probing, the same argument can be made of the way that US tech companies behave.

Whether TikTok will do enough to appease lawmakers and alay fears remains to be seen, but for now, the company is inching ever closer to a ban Stateside.


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