It lasted for 5-hours. A Congressional hearing with intent to ban one of the world’s most famous apps, TikToks, grinded nerves as much as it put on display, again, the tech-ineptness of our elected officials.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified in a hearing that felt more like a simulation in “how much vitriol can we take” than a hearing. The hearing, put on by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, offered a myriad of outlandish moments between a CEO passively in-compassionate about user data and a set of politicians as versed in apps as grazing lambs.
Chew called TikTok a “sunny corner of the Internet.” There’s certainly provocative, needed debate over the safety issues with TikTok and their unsettling challenges, however, there should be little debate that an app used for Chinese government spying isn’t a “sunny corner” in any universe.
The United States wants to ban TikTok. And that’s a big deal. TikTok is a hub for the casual American looking for cheap entertainment that appeals to mommy wine culture, bro-spired weight lifting, comedy skits, and teen drama.
That’s not to say that TikTok doesn’t offer any redeeming, educational qualities. However, its mindless scroll/view pattern ultimately is it’s calling card.
The committee played provocative, terrifying videos before Chew. One Rep played a video of a person loading a firearm, saying, “me as f at the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.” TikTok removed the video, of course.
“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,” Cammack said.
“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.
The presiding narrative focused on user data. And Chew wanted little to nothing to do with that line of questioning.
“I believe we do not sell data to any data brokers,” Chew said in response to a question from Rep. Frank Pallone. “I didn’t ask you about data brokers,” Pallone said. “Do you sell it to anyone?”
“Congressman, I actually am in support of some rules…” Chew said before Pallone cut him off, saying. “I asked you whether the company TikTok would commit to not sell data to anyone.”
“I can get back to you on the details,” Chew said.
The answer sounded more like a lowly man working at the lowest level of customer service for an appliance company. But Chew is, of course, a man blessed with millions in advertising revenue, partly due to selling user data, we assume. TikTok is estimated as a near $9 billion business. Like, it prints money. And Chew is the recipient, potentially, of $20 million of that in salary.
Another unsettling narrative to develop in the hearing was that Congress still doesn’t understand technology. We all remember the embarrassing Zuckerberg hearings that exposed our politicians as mind-numbingly inept in regards to anything to do with technology.
Georgia representative Earl “Buddy” Carter asked Chew if the TikTok app tracked people’s eye pupils. Chew said no, and clarified TikTok isn’t tracking human body parts at all.
@gbp97 I get second hand embarrasment watching these corpses try to make points 🤦🏼♂️ #tiktokhearing #tiktokban #fyp #ustiktokban ♬ original sound – Gbp97
There was also an extremely awkard exchange between Chew and North Carolina Rep Hudson, where he asked if the TikTok app accessed our WiFi networks. Chew, appearing confused and citing initially he didn’t understand the question, eventually explained that apps need to access a WiFi network when a user turns the device onto the WiFi network.
There’s something else we should mention as a priority point: The US government commits the exact egregious acts with our data that they are upset at TikTok over, which tells me TikTok, somewhere down the line, probably refused to play ball with them.
Pending your sanity can take it, you can watch it all here.