- Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers announced on Monday that the TikTok CEO had been asked to appear before the committee to address lawmakers’ concerns with the social-media company.
- Rodgers claims that TikTok has knowingly allowed the Chinese Communist Party to access user data through the app.
- “We’ve made our concerns clear with TikTok. It is now time to continue the committee’s efforts to hold Big Tech accountable by bringing TikTok before the committee to provide complete and honest answers for people,” Rogers says.
- Chew is set to appear before the committee on March 23.
Why it’s news
TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have been under increasing scrutiny over the last year as various reports have revealed the app’s ties to Chinese state media, improper data collection, and worrying influence the app may have on young, impressionable users.
Chew has never appeared before a congressional committee, Bloomberg reports. Other social-media CEOs like Meta Platform’s Mark Zuckerberg have testified before congressional committees.
TikTok representatives have previously stood before congressional committees, but Chew’s appearance will be the first since the company began more openly working with the Biden Administration to reach a deal providing greater data security.
Multiple states and the federal government have already banned TikTok on government devices.
Backing up a bit
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has three main areas of concern surrounding TikTok, including data collection, the effect on young users, and the company’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
Last year, reports found that TikTok employees had access to user data. Employees were able to access user data and determine user locations. At the end of last year, an internal investigation found that the company had used the data to track journalists covering TikTok.
The typical social-media site has an algorithm that curates content similar to what a user has shown interest in before. Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will also suggest content outside the curated algorithm, but the recommended content will be marked as such.
TikTok has reportedly been “heating” certain content and giving specific accounts and users a boost that could help the content go viral. Employees have broad discretion regarding which accounts get extra attention. The potential for influence over users is disturbing, considering reports which show that propaganda is largely unchecked on the app.
Employees promoting their friends or their own accounts is mildly concerning—especially when popular users can make money off of accounts—but reports from last year showed that Chinese state media has a strong influence over the staff at TikTok and ByteDance.
Forbes reviewed hundreds of LinkedIn profiles of current employees of TikTok and ByteDance, the company that owns the site, finding that 300 of them were once Chinese state media employees.
Of these profiles, 23 managed “content partnerships, public affairs, corporate social responsibility, and media cooperation.”
Fifteen of the profiles indicate that the employees are also currently employed by Chinese state media groups, several of which are identified by the State Department as extensions of the Chinese government.