House lawmakers on Thursday voiced disbelief at TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s assurances that the app has no link with China or its Communist Party, and House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers flatly declared that the “platform should be banned.”
Chew, a Singaporean citizen educated in the U.K. and the U.S. and now living in the U.S., became the latest tech company executive to be confronted by lawmakers on data privacy, dangers to kids from excessive use of social media apps, and the potential for foreign governments to influence Americans through such platforms.
In testimony to House Energy and Commerce, Chew repeatedly denied that TikTok, a U.S.-based company headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, is controlled by its China-based parent ByteDance. But those assurances appeared to be weakened when China’s Commerce Ministry on Thursday said it would oppose a forced sale of TikTok, as is being contemplated by the Biden administration, because such a sale would involve the export of Chinese technology.
“I expect today you’ll say anything to avoid this outcome,” Rodgers, R-Wash., said of her conclusion that the app should be banned. “Like you’re 100 percent responsible for what TikTok does, that you suddenly endorse the national data privacy standard … that TikTok doesn’t harm our innocent children or that your ties to the Chinese Communist Party through ByteDance is a myth. We aren’t buying it.”
Rodgers said TikTok’s plans to store American users’ data in servers owned and operated by Oracle in Texas was no “more than a marketing scheme.”