TikTok CEO faces Congress as the U.S. considers a potential ban: Live updates

Committee members criticize TikTok for lax moderation. Creators have said it’s too harsh.

Committee members have continually questioned Chew on harmful content that has seemingly skirted the app’s community guidelines. They have repeatedly asked why a threatening video toward the committee was allowed to stay on the platform for 41 days.

“There are some bad actors who come in and post violative content and it’s our job to remove them. But the overwhelming experience is a very positive one for our community,” Chew said.

Speaker McCarthy says there could be a bipartisan bill to address TikTok concerns

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said today that there might be an opportunity for lawmakers to craft bipartisan legislation addressing the concerns about TikTok.

“I wanted to get all the information first and go through, but I think you could have a bipartisan bill on this,” he told reporters.

Several bills targeting TikTok have already been filed this year.

The committee is taking another break

The committee took another break so members can attend House votes. It’s not clear exactly how long the members will be gone.

Rep. Schrier presses Chew about content glorifying eating disorders

Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., who noted she was a pediatrician before entering Congress, questioned Chew about harmful content children and teenagers might be experiencing on TikTok.

She also expressed concerns about content that might lead users to develop eating disorders, noting that the U.S. is seeing children in elementary school developing disordered eating.

Chew said that TikTok is removing content that glorifies eating disorders and it is identifying themes and trying to build models to prevent young users from encountering that content.

He said that TikTok worked with Boston Children’s Hospital to develop the 60-minute default time limit for any users younger than 18.

Asked what percentage of teenagers actually adhere to that 60-minute limit, Chew said he would have to check on those numbers.

“I’m guessing it is an incredibly low percentage who actually heed that,” Schrier said.

TikTok’s ad business is growing around live sports

TikTok is becoming a go-to location for digital advertising for companies — even during live sporting events, the sweetest spots for marketing campaigns.

The social media platform has been under scrutiny from the U.S. government and faces a possible ban, with lawmakers grilling Chew during today’s hearing on Capitol Hill. But it is attracting billions of dollars in advertising revenue as major companies look to reach a younger audience.

TikTok hearing part of broader U.S. push to combat China

Today’s hearing is part of a broader effort in Congress to scrutinize and combat the Chinese Communist Party.

The select House committee on China competitiveness had a strong first hearing last month on threats from Beijing. It holds its second prime-time hearing at 7 p.m. ET tonight on “The Chinese Communist Party’s Ongoing Uyghur Genocide,” a topic that has come up several times during this hearing.

When it comes to cracking down on TikTok, President Joe Biden has endorsed bipartisan legislation, authored by Warner and Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D.

The RESTRICT Act would give the Commerce Department the authority to restrict or ban technologies like TikTok that are produced in one of six adversarial countries, including China, and are found to pose a national security threat.  

Warner and Thune said Wednesday that the number of co-sponsors of their bill had grown to 20.

Rep. Soto acknowledges the vibrant creative community on TikTok

Much of the questioning during the hearing has focused on the darker corners of the platform, but Rep. Darren Soto, R-Fla., recognized that many Americans have formed positive connections on the app.

“They’re expressing themselves in art and music, poetry, short film, comedy, among other creative expressions, and many of them are inspiring talented young people,” he said.

However, Soto echoed the same concerns as his fellow committee members over the app’s influence on children. He read a letter from a constituent who said that her 14-year-old son has been pushed a “continuous stream of inappropriate content” and that her daughter became “insecure” because of the platform.

Yes or no questions

A common refrain from Congress members as Chew has tried to respond: “It’s a yes or no question.”

Few answers have been “yes” or “no.”

Chew says he wouldn’t use “spying” to describe ByteDance oversight of U.S. data

Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., asked Chew directly if ByteDance has spied on American citizens.

In a response that will likely be repeated by members of Congress pushing to ban the app, Chew said: “I don’t think that spying is the right way to describe it.”

He tried to continue, saying, “This is ultimately …” but Dunn cut him off.

On TikTok, the hearing is getting some traction

The TikTok hearing is getting a bit of attention on TikTok.

The videos with the hashtag #tiktokhearing are approaching 250,000 views, according to the hashtag’s page.

Members skeptical of Chew’s testimony

Throughout the hearing, Chew has been cut off by committee members who were unconvinced by his assurances that users have control over their privacy settings.

“I am not being reassured by anything you’ve said so far. And I think quite frankly, your testimony has raised more questions for me than answers,” Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., said during her questioning.

Old versions of TikTok collected precise GPS location data, but current version does not, Chew says

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., questioned Chew about TikTok’s collection of location data. Chew confirmed that TikTok collected precise GPS data from users “back in 2020,” but that the app no longer does this.

However, when asked, Chew said a “small percentage” of users with old versions of the app could still be subject to this data collection.

Chew denied that TikTok provided users’ precise GPS data to the Chinese government. He reiterated that the company does not sell user data to third-party data brokerages, adding, “I think this has to be broad legislation to help us, the whole industry, address this problem.”

Chew asked why TikTok exec dodged questions on China’s treatment of Uyghurs

Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., questioned Chew about why TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, Michael Beckerman, refused to condemn the Chinese government’s treatment of ethnic Uyghurs in an interview on CNN.

“When Mr. Beckerman was with Jake Tapper on CNN, and asked repeatedly to condemn Chinese treatment, Chinese communist government treatment of the Uyghurs when that treatment has been classified in the United States as a genocide, when a U.N. report classified it as a crime against humanity, why after multiple questions, Mr. Beckman refused to address that? Are you afraid of the Chinese communist government?” Palmer asked.

“No,” Chew said, attempting to elaborate, but Palmer interrupted him several times.

Rep. Obernolte, one of the few members with a tech background, pushes on data security

Rep. Jay Obernolte, R-Calif., is one of the few members of Congress with a background in tech. He earned a master’s degree in artificial intelligence from the University of California, Los Angeles, and founded the video game developer FarSight Studios.

He pressed Chew on how the platform will protect U.S. data, expressing some skepticism of its “Project Texas” plan to secure data in America.

Chew confirms TikTok video that threatened committee has been removed

“It goes to show the enormous challenge that we have to make sure that, although the vast majority of the users come for a good experience, we need to make sure that bad actors don’t post violations,” Chew said.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., pointed out that the post had been up for 41 days. He told Chew that TikTok should invest more resources “to pull down damaging and deadly information” from the platform.

‘It’s not the industry. This is TikTok’: Rep. Carter presses Chew on harmful videos

Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia pressed Chew over the platform’s failure to moderate and remove dangerous video challenges that, he said, have resulted in the deaths of some American children.

“This is a real industry challenge and we’re working … ” Chew began before Carter cut him off.

“No, no. It’s not the industry. This is TikTok. We’re talking about TikTok. We’re talking about, why is that you can’t control this. … Tell me why this goes on.”

Chew again tried to move the conversation to wider industry problems. Appearing fed up, Carter shifted gears to discuss whether TikTok uses face and body data to identify users.

And we’re back

The committee returned from a brief recess with Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., kicking off the questioning.

Warner discusses bipartisan bill that could be used to ban TikTok

Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, discussed his bipartisan bill — the RESTRICT Act — that would allow the federal government to regulate and even ban foreign-produced technology, including TikTok, during an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning.

The Virginia Democrat told CNBC that the legislation does not name a specific company, such as TikTok, and called for a “rules-based approach” to foreign-produced technology that falls under the national security realm.

“My legislation talks about not only communications technology, but things like AI, quantum computing, synthetic biology, the host of areas where the national security realm is now defined as well by technology,” the senator said.

Rep. Clarke calls out algorithmic discrimination

Rep. Yvette Clarke questioned Chew about reports that TikTok censored phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and that the algorithm misreports content from Black creators.

The New York Democrat further expressed concern about “the lack of adequate recognition, attribution and compensation to Black creatives for their content.”

Clarke acknowledged that TikTok is not alone in its algorithmic bias. Previous reports show that Twitter and Facebook’s algorithms can also be discriminatory.

10-minute recess

Rodgers announced a 10-minute recess. The committee will resume the hearing soon, and it’s expected to last a few more hours.

No lawmaker in the hearing has spoken in favor of TikTok

An indication of how few supporters TikTok has in Congress: Not a single member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has defended the social media giant nearly two hours into this hearing.

Instead, committee members of both parties have attacked TikTok executives for their ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and they have played videos from the app that promote violence, bad medical advice and self-harm.

While many members of Congress use other American social media platforms to communicate with constituents and voters, just a handful on Capitol Hill post videos on TikTok. They include Bowman and Rep. Jeff Jackson, D-N.C., as well as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

There have been some made-for-TV moments, including when Cammack showed a TikTok video threatening violence against the committee itself.

But, by and large, this is a pretty serious group of lawmakers, and there are no real bomb throwers on this panel, which is why we haven’t seen much yelling today, as we do in other committees.

“Welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress,” Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., told Chew.


Rep. Guthrie says drug trafficking is occurring on TikTok

Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., said that content related to illicit drugs “like fentanyl, drug trafficking and other illicit activity is pervasive and racks up hundreds of thousands of views.”

Guthrie referred to the so-called Benedryl challenge that he said resulted in the death of an American teenager. The rumored TikTok stunt involved ingesting high doses of the allergy medication to induce hallucinations, though there has been little evidence on the app of a widespread challenge.

“I represent TikTok here today, I can tell you that TikTok does not allow illegal drugs,” Chew said.

Guthrie said that China is able to prevent this content but it still exists on TikTok in the U.S.

“I don’t think any company in our industry can be perfect at this,” Chew said. “This is a real big challenge for our industry. But our goal is to get this, any violative content including illegal drugs down to a very, very small number.”

TikTok’s top ally in Congress denounces attempts to ban the app

For an app that boasts 150 million American users, TikTok has had virtually no allies on Capitol Hill to fight back against the growing movement to ban it. That appears to be changing.

The Chinese-owned platform has won over Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a New York Democrat, who hosted a press conference yesterday at the Capitol alongside dozens of TikTok content creators to make the case for protecting the app in the U.S.

In an interview Tuesday, Bowman staunchly defended TikTok and denounced legislation to ban the app, rejecting arguments about its dangers as “fearmongering” and saying he hasn’t seen evidence that China is using it for espionage.

“This is a space where these creators have found a platform to share their ideas, their inspirations, their thoughts, their voices with the rest of the country and the rest of the world. And why do we want to take that away?” Bowman told NBC News. “Why do we need to ban a platform that 150 million Americans now use?”

Rep. Bilirakis blames TikTok for teen’s suicide

Rep. Gus Bilirakis had the parents of 16-year-old Chase Nasca, who died by suicide last February, stand during his questioning of Chew.

The teen’s parents grew emotional as Bilirakis said Chase’s “For You” page was a “window to discover suicide.” The Florida Republican also played a number of TikTok videos discussing suicide and self-harm.

Chew called Chase’s death “devastating” and said “we do take these issues very seriously.”

The Social Media Victims Law Center announced a lawsuit yesterday against TikTok and ByteDance over Chase’s death.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

Rep. Matsui asks Chew about TikTok’s policies on harmful content

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., asked Chew about whether TikTok has different policies for amplifying content related to depression or dieting versus content such as gardening and sports.

“Yes,” Chew said. “We are trying out some policies together with experts to understand certain contents that are not inherently harmful, like extreme fitness, for example, but shouldn’t be seen too much.”

He said these are models TikTok is building with experts to implement them across the platform, “particularly for younger users.”

“I believe it’s imperative that the app take steps to moderate that behavior, rather than continuing to promote it,” Matsui said.

In early March, TikTok rolled out features to curb screen time and expand parental involvement through family pairing. Specifically, TikTok said in a blog post that it would automatically set a 60-minute daily screen time limit for users younger than 18, as well as prompt underage users to set daily limits for themselves if they spend more than 100 minutes on the app.

More than a dozen orgs send letter to Congress opposing TikTok ban

More than a dozen organizations wrote a letter to Congress Thursday, saying that a nationwide ban on TikTok would “have serious ramifications for free expression in the digital sphere” and set “a potent and worrying precedent in a time of increased censorship of internet users around the world.”

The group of 16 organizations — which includes the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Tully Center for Free Speech and the American Civil Liberties Union — said it understands there are serious concerns over the Chinese-owned platform’s threat to national security but believes these issues can be addressed without a ban.

“Measures short of an outright ban may address potential security concerns raised in relation to TikTok,” the letter states, suggesting that a bill from Sens. Blumenthal and Moran “could yield a plan that would mitigate security risks without denying users access to the platform.”

“A comprehensive consumer privacy bill would limit data commodification, thereby dramatically increasing users’ security online. A robust privacy bill could address concerns not just at TikTok but across the multiple social media platforms — current and future — that have proven to be vulnerable to intrusion by the CCP and other foreign governments.”

Rep. Cammack plays TikTok video threatening violence against committee

A video showed a gun magazine being emptied in slow motion, while a text overlay read, “me as f at the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.”

Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., said the video threatens the life of Rodgers and has been up for 41 days, despite the content violating TikTok’s community guidelines.

“You expect us to believe that you are capable of maintaining the data security, privacy and security of 150 million Americans where you can’t even protect the people in this room,” she said.

Rep. Kat Cammack during the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on TikTok
Rep. Kat Cammack.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

‘Blackout challenge’ used as example of TikTok’s negative influence

Latta questioned Chew on the “blackout challenge” that some have attributed to the death of young children, including 10-year-old Taiwanna Anderson.

The challenge involves participants holding their breath until they pass out. Latta called Taiwanna’s death “one of the many devastating examples of children losing their lives because of content promoted by TikTok.”

In October, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit alleging TikTok caused Taiwanna’s death.

The prevalence of TikTok challenges have been called into question in recent years. The Washington Post reported last March that Facebook had hired GOP firm Targeted Victory to malign TikTok by amplifying negative challenges or pushing challenges that do not exist.

Rep. DeGette presses Chew on health care disinformation on TikTok

Rep. Dianne DeGette, D-Colo., pushed Chew to answer questions about health care misinformation on his platform.

She said, for example, that there has been “extreme content,” such as suggesting using herbal treatments or papaya seeds to induce abortions.

“So if people searching for information on safe abortions went on TikTok, they could get devastatingly incorrect information,” DeGette said.

She also said there have been videos featuring tutorials on how to make hydroxychloroquine — a drug then-President Donald Trump and other conspiracy theorists falsely said treats Covid — from grapefruit.

“No. 1, hydroxychloroquine is not effective in treating Covid,” DeGette said. “So that’s one issue. The second issue is you can’t even make hydroxychloroquine from grapefruit. So again, this is a really serious miscommunication about health care information that people looking at TikTok are able to get and in fact, it’s being pushed out to them.”

Chew denied that TikTok features that information. “The dangerous misinformation that you mentioned is not allowed on our platform,” he said.

“I’m sorry to report, it is on your platform though,” DeGette said.

Chew said, “We invest a significant amount in content moderation. … I fully align with you that this is a problem that faces our industry. … We need to take that very seriously.”

About an hour into the hearing, Congress isn’t warming up to TikTok

As we cross the one-hour mark, members of Congress don’t seem to be warming up to TikTok despite Chew’s attempts to portray the app as largely a safe space for creative young Americans.

They have continued to press him on TikTok’s ties to China, with members of both parties raising broad warnings that U.S. data is not safe.

Chew, meanwhile, keeps comparing his company to the rest of the tech industry, arguing that many of the app’s ills — including disinformation and privacy issues — go well beyond TikTok and that his company is doing what it can to address them.

Lawmakers listen as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing
Lawmakers listen as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.Frank Thorp V / NBC News

What is Section 230?

If you’re watching this hearing, you’re probably noticing references to something call Section 230.

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, internet giants such as TikTok bear no legal liability for the content posted by their users. This means that only the original speaker or poster may be held liable, with only a few exceptions.

“Section 230 was never intended to shield companies like yours from amplifying dangerous and life-threatening content to children,” Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, said.

As usual, tech folks aren’t impressed with Congress

In what has become a common refrain about tech-related congressional hearings, many people in the industry aren’t terribly impressed with the questions and the general knowledge of our elected officials.

Chew says TikTok has a plan to store U.S. data ‘on American soil’

Members of Congress have continued to press Chew on whether China’s government has access to Americans’ data through TikTok. He has pressed back, telling members, “They have never asked us,” and “I have seen no evidence of this happening.”

Members appeared skeptical.

Chew noted that the company has a plan to move data into the U.S., where it would be stored “on American soil” and overseen “by an American company.” The company calls the plan “Project Texas,” which is a $1.5 billion program that includes a contract with the Austin, Texas-based Oracle to store data from the app’s American users.

Committee hones in on China fears

Members repeatedly questioned Chew on China’s influence on and access to TikTok users.

“To the American people watching today, hear this. TikTok is a weapon by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on you, manipulate what you see, and exploit for future generations,” Rodgers said.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, pressed Chew on who helped him prepare for the hearing, asking him if ByteDance or the Chinese Communist Party advised him ahead of his testimony.

“My phone is full of well-wishes, but I prepared for this hearing with my team here in D.C.,” Chew said.

Rodgers presses Chew on China, warns him against ‘false’ statements

Rodgers pressed Chew about TikTok’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party, at one point warning him “that making false or misleading statements to Congress is a federal crime.”

“I understand,” Chew said, later saying that the platform does not promote or remove content at the request of the Chinese government.

Would U.S. apps benefit from a TikTok ban? Probably

India offers some idea what would happen if the U.S. bans TikTok.

Research from the app data company Apptopia found that Instagram benefited greatly when India banned TikTok in 2020. In a blog post, Apptopia’s head of content, Adam Blacker, wrote that its data showed people rushed to download TikTok alternatives. He noted that smaller apps could see a big bump.

“Social apps that were already available on the app stores saw their year-over-year performance increase at rates they had never experienced before,” he wrote.

Pallone focuses on broader privacy concerns with Big Tech

Pallone said children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to TikTok’s “addictive and damaging features.”

He expressed concern over TikTok’s ability to push disinformation but focused much of his opening statement on privacy regulation more broadly.

“Public outrage and hollow apologies alone are not going to rein in Big Tech,” said Pallone, the top Democrat on the committee.

He addressed Chew directly, saying, “I know this is about TikTok but I am focusing all of my attention not only on TikTok but on … wide concerns” about social media privacy.

Rodgers says people need the truth about TikTok

Rodgers said at the start of the hearing that TikTok “should be banned” and the fact that there are 150 million American users on the platform “emphasizes the urgency for Congress to act.”

“Mr. Chew, you are here because the American people need the truth about the threat TikTok poses to our national and personal security. TikTok collects nearly every data point imaginable, from people’s location to what they type and copy, biometric data and more. … TikTok surveils us all,” she said. “And the Chinese Communist Party is able to use this as a tool to manipulate America as a whole. We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values.”

She continued: “Your platform should be banned. I expect today you’ll say anything to avoid this outcome.”

TikTok’s CEO is now testifying

Hearing kicks off with remarks from Rodgers

Today’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing has begun with opening remarks from Rodgers, who called on the audience to “maintain decorum” as Chew testifies.

“Americans need the truth,” she said.

Public and media pack small hearing room for Chew’s testimony

Today’s hearing is taking place in a fairly small committee room, with press and members of the public packing the seats. Among them appear to be several TikTok creators who attended a rally yesterday in support of the app.

Chew made a brief statement as he arrived, flanked by TikTok creators. He said he’s committed to keeping TikTok a safe place for free expression and said there is a “firewall” around U.S. data.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing
Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify today at the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing at the Capitol.Alex Brandon / AP

Committee chair says hearing will ‘expose the truth’ about TikTok threat

Rodgers said Chew will appear in front of the committee today “for us to expose the truth about the threat that TikTok poses to our national and personal security,” during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

She added that TikTok has been “caught repeatedly in lies” about its connection to ByteDance and the Chinese Communist Party. The committee will ask Chew “why he has said that individuals’ data is not being tracked or there’s not surveillance” despite journalists having been tracked and TikTok employees having said that “everything is seen by China,” she said.

“Those are the kind of questions that we want to ask and ultimately to expose the fact that TikTok is a threat and now cannot be trusted with our data,” she said.

Rodgers said she believes that there will be a “renewed call” by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for a national data privacy standard in the U.S.

Sen. Warner knocks TikTok’s credibility ahead of hearing

“While I appreciate Mr. Chew’s willingness to answer questions before Congress, TikTok’s lack of transparency, repeated obfuscations, and misstatements of fact have severely undermined the credibility of any statements by TikTok employees, including Mr. Chew,” he said in a statement yesterday afternoon.

Warner noted that his RESTRICT Act has bipartisan support with 20 co-sponsors in the Senate. The White House has endorsed the bill, which would give the commerce secretary broad powers to regulate, or ban, technology produced in six countries defined as a “foreign adversary”: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

China criticizes possible U.S. plan to force TikTok sale

China’s government said Thursday it would oppose possible U.S. plans to force TikTok’s Chinese owner to sell the short-video service as a security risk and warned such a move would hurt investor confidence in the United States.

“If the news is true, China will resolutely oppose it,” said Shu Jueting, a Chinese Commerce Ministry spokeswoman. She gave no indication what Beijing might do.

A forced sale “would seriously damage investors from multiple countries including China” and hurt “confidence to invest in the United States,” she said.

The House’s biggest TikToker defends the app, but says security worries are ‘real’

A TikTok-famous North Carolina lawmaker said Wednesday that while he recognizes “real” security concerns tied to the Chinese-owned video app, he also doesn’t see a ban as inevitable.

Democratic Rep. Jeff Jackson, who boasts 1.2 million followers on TikTok, said in an interview that he attributes some of his public recognition to the popular app, which has helped him reach constituents of varying ages.

“It just happens to be the case that you get way more views on TikTok than you do on Instagram or Facebook. Like 10 times as many,” Jackson, 40, said. “I have been able to reach a lot of people, and at the same time I think the security concerns are real.”

China has some of the most popular apps of the moment

Many of the most popular apps on Apple and Google’s respective platforms are owned by or linked to Chinese companies.

They include Temu, a shopping app that has skyrocketed in popularity, owned by Chinese e-commerce company Pinduoduo. ByteDance has TikTok, as well as CapCut, a video editor. Shopping apps Shein and AliExpress are also near the top of the app ranks, according to the app tracker SensorTower.

Creators protest potential TikTok ban in D.C. before the hearing

A group of about 30 content creators gathered outside the nation’s Capitol yesterday, holding signs that echoed their plea to lawmakers: “Keep TikTok.”

The TikTokers — who have a collective following of over 60 million people — joined Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., for a rally to discuss their opposition to a potential ban. 

“I use TikTok to share a love of my family and our journey through foster care and adoption, and through that I’ve been able to create a community of people from all over the world,” TikTok creator Jason Linton, known as @dadlifejason, said while addressing the crowd. “I’m asking our politicians: Don’t take away the community that we’ve built.”

‘Ban TikTok’: GOP Sen. Cotton says ‘American data is at risk’

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said nothing that Chew says during his congressional hearing “will change the fact that American data is at risk.”

He introduced one of the bills to ban the Chinese-owned social media platform in the U.S., saying that it collects private information of American users “and provides the Chinese Communist Party with access to that information.”

“Ban TikTok,” Cotton declared in a tweet this morning before the hearing began.

Tech lab tells TikTok to stop citing its work

The head of the Citizen Lab, an academic research project at the University of Toronto, said Wednesday night that he is “disappointed” that TikTok executives continue to cite its work as a defense of the app’s data practices.

“I’ve called them out on this in the past, and it’s unfortunate that I have to do it again,” Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert wrote.

The lab published research in 2021 that found TikTok collected data like many other apps, but could not tell what the company did with that data.

“The conversation about potential privacy and national security concerns with TikTok should serve as a reminder that most social media apps are unacceptably invasive-by-design, treat users as raw materials for data surveillance, and fall short on transparency about their data sharing practices,” Deibert added.

TikTok ban would be ‘a slap in the face’ to young voters, activists warn

In the nation’s capital, the debate over banning TikTok has largely focused on whether the app’s Chinese parent company poses a security threat to Americans.

But behind closed doors, Democrats are also being forced to weigh whether blocking the popular video platform could come with heavy political costs.

In 2020, Aidan Kohn-Murphy used TikTok to rally support for Joe Biden. Now, he’s trying to use the platform to stop Biden from killing it. 

“I’m not defending TikTok as a company, I’m defending my entire generation,” said the 19-year-old Harvard freshman who, as a high schooler during the 2020 campaign founded a group called TikTok for Biden. It has since changed its name to Gen Z for Change, formally incorporated as a political nonprofit group, and says it now includes 500 creators with a combined 500 million followers on multiple platforms.

“If they went ahead with banning TikTok, it would feel like a slap in the face to a lot of young Americans,” he added. “Democrats don’t understand the political consequences this would have.”

TikTok CEO to tell Congress the app is safe and shouldn’t be banned

TikTok’s CEO plans to tell Congress the social media platform is safe and secure for teenagers and other users and that it won’t be accessed or influenced by the Chinese government, according to his prepared remarks.

In his first appearance before Congress, Chew will also confirm that TikTok now boasts 150 million users in America — a 50% increase since 2020, as NBC News has reported, a sign that it’s now an integral part of American society.

Many of those users in the U.S., he will say, are artists, musicians, chefs and other creators, as well as small-business owners, in a clear appeal to Republican members of the panel.

What a TikTok ban would mean for users

TikTok hasn’t yet indicated it will sell, but it has tried to persuade U.S. officials that they can address security concerns and meet the level of proposed scrutiny. TikTok’s CEO has argued a ban wouldn’t address security concerns.

But what would a ban mean for consumers? Is there any precedent?

NBC News spoke with four people who have studied cybersecurity, national security and technology policy who offered some ideas about how a TikTok ban could work.

Chew makes his first appearance before Congress today

Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at 10 a.m. ET.

It will be his first appearance before a congressional panel since he took over as CEO in April 2021.

The hearing, titled “TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms,” will be led by Rodgers and Pallone.

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