A month after the US House of Representatives banned the use of TikTok across government owned devices, the app's CEO Shou Zi Chew is now set to testify before Congress in March amid heightened scrutiny over the company's data privacy practices and connections to the Chinese Communist Party.
Chew is set to appear March 23 before the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce committee to address growing security concerns related to TikTok as well as the platform's effect on the nation's youth and their mental health. “Big Tech has increasingly become a destructive force in American society," Republican Representative and Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a statement. "ByteDance-owned TikTok has knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data."
McMorris Rodgers went on to add, "Americans deserve to know how these actions impact their privacy and data security, as well as what actions TikTok is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms. 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.”
TikTok was quick to deny any claims that the company had made US users data available to the Chinese Communist Party in their own statement, writing, "We welcome the opportunity to set the record straight about TikTok, ByteDance, and the commitments we are making to address concerns about U.S. national security before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce."
The congressional hearing comes as only the latest development in longstanding efforts by lawmakers to ban TikTok over ties to the Chinese government dating all the way back to the Trump administration. The former president called for the removal of TikTok and other apps that had ties to China in 2020 with an executive order that briefly sent the app scrambling to find an American buyer. Oracle and Walmart were among the many names thrown out as possible candidates to take over the popular social media platform but efforts to enforce the ban eventually fizzled out after ByteDance successfully sued.
The Biden administration announced that they would be rolling back the proposed TikTok ban in 2021, instead outlining new criteria for apps "owned, controlled, or managed by persons that support foreign adversary military or intelligence activities." However, last month President Biden did approve to ban the app on all federally issued devices as part of a much larger omnibus spending bill. The House's Chief Administrative Officer had previously cited a "high risk due to a number of security issues" related to the app in a memo announcing the ban.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is set to vote next month on a bill that would put a nationwide ban on TikTok over cybersecurity concerns, although the White House has declined to say whether or not they would support the move. TikTok currently faces similar bans from public universities and government agencies in at least 16 other states.
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