The boss of TikTok in the hot seat in the American Congress
Tiktok boss Shou Chew has defended his platform, accused by US lawmakers of endangering national security.
Shou Chew, boss of TikTok, a subsidiary of the Chinese group ByteDance, tried with difficulty on Thursday to defend his application against American elected officials who were revolted against the platform which they accuse of endangering national security and the health of its citizens. users.
TikTok, suspected by many governments of giving Beijing access to user data, faces a total ban in the United States.
I imagine you're going to say everything you can today to avoid that outcome, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House's powerful Energy and Climate Committee, said bluntly. Commerce, who summoned the leader for a hearing.
We don't believe you, she said.
“ByteDance is indebted to the Chinese Communist Party and ByteDance and TikTok are the same.
—Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee
Political pressure against the hugely popular social network has skyrocketed in recent months on both sides of the Atlantic. The White House, the European Commission, the Canadian and British governments, and other organizations have banned their officials from using it.
Shou Chew has acknowledged that the platform still has old US user data stored on servers accessible to Chinese employees.
The leader promised that by the end of the year, all information related to the country's 150 million users would be managed only from servers of the Texas Oracle group located in the United States, but today there is still data we need to delete.
The Chinese government does not own or control ByteDance. It's a private company, he insisted, however.
Representative Anna Eshoo called his arguments preposterous. I don't believe there really is a private sector in China, she said, referring to Chinese law that requires companies in the country to share their data if Beijing asks them to.
In the United States, the February downing of a supposed Chinese spy balloon reignited tensions with China.
I still believe that the communist government in Beijing will always have control and the ability to influence what you do, insisted the elected Democrat Frank Pallone.
Several bills, supported on the right and on the left, are in the pipeline to ban TikTok. The White House hinted that if TikTok remained under ByteDance, it would be banned.
But a sale, even if the parent company agreed, would be very complicated. Much of the platform's success is due to its powerful recommendation algorithms, and splitting the algorithm between TikTok and ByteDance is like surgery between conjoined twins, notes analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush, for the article. AFP.
The Singaporean boss, a former Harvard student, also faced many questions about TikTok's responsibilities for the mental and physical health of young people, ranging from addiction risks to dangerous challenges for users.
Your company destroyed their lives, Gus Bilirakis said, pointing to the parents of a dead teenager who came to watch the hearing. They have filed a complaint against the platform, which they accuse of showing their son thousands of unsolicited suicide videos.
“Your technology is literally causing deaths.
—Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican Elect
You know TikTok might be designed to minimize the harm it does to kids, but the decision was made to get kids hooked in the name of profits, representative Doris Matsui said.
Elected officials also fear that the application could serve as a Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist Party to manipulate public opinion.
On the contrary, it participates in the cultural influence of the United States, assures TikTok. According to the company, US users represent 10% of its global base, but 25% of views.
TikTok and several associations believe that a complete ban, such as that in force in India since 2020, would fall under censorship.
Why so much hysteria around TikTok?, asked Wednesday evening the Democratic representative Jamaal Bowman, during x27;a press conference with content creators who came to defend their favorite network.
The platform poses the same risks to data privacy, user health or misinformation as Facebook , Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, argued the chosen one, calling for an honest conversation on all social networks.
Duncan Joseph, a 20-year-old content creator, believes that he could never have built his community on other platforms, which he considers less authentic ticks. On TikTok, anyone can become a superstar, the comedian told AFP.