TikTok tells US lawmakers that it is not giving any information to the Chinese government


A TikTok executive faced tough questions at a hearing in front of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday during the video-sharing app’s first appearance, saying that it was not giving the Chinese government any information and was trying to protect U.S. data .

Senators at the hearing also raised concerns that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based internet technology company ByteDance, and rivals YouTube, owned by Alphabet, and Snapchat have algorithms that can be harmful to young people.

Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for America, was the company’s first executive to appear before Congress and testify before a subcommittee of the Senate’s trade committee. Republicans in particular pressed Beckerman over concerns about TikTok’s management of app users’ data.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, the panel’s top Republican, said she was concerned about TikTok’s data collection, including audio and a user’s location, and the potential for the Chinese government to gain access to the information. Blackburn asked Beckerman if TikTok could resist sharing data with China’s government if material was requested.

“We do not share any information with the Chinese government,” Beckerman replied.

When asked by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Beckerman said TikTok has “no connection” to Beijing ByteDance Technology, a ByteDance entity in which the Chinese government acquired a stake and board seat earlier 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 manages access,” Beckerman said.

Republican Senator John Thune said TikTok may be more powered by content algorithms than even Facebook, as the app is known for quickly learning what users find interesting and offering them these types of videos.

Beckerman said TikTok is ready to provide the app’s algorithm moderation guidelines so that the Senate panel can have it reviewed by independent experts.

Executives from YouTube and Snapchat also testified. In a non-partisan demonstration, senators from both parties, including Democratic Committee Chairman Richard Blumenthal, accused the three companies of bullying young people and sometimes directing them to information that encouraged harmful behavior such as sexualized games or anorexia.

Executives responded that their companies tried to create a fun experience and excluded dangerous or offensive content.

Former Republican President Donald Trump tried to ban TikTok – a popular platform used by millions of Americans to post short videos – from U.S. app stores because it was collecting data from American users that could be accessed by the Chinese government and pose a threat to US citizens’ security.

Democratic President Joe Biden later overturned Trump’s plan, but sought a broader review of various foreign-controlled apps.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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