Congress Grills TikTok CEO on China Ties: ‘Your Technology is Literally Leading to Death’

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew received a verbal smackdown from the House Energy and Commerce Committee panel as both Democrats and Republicans grilled him over harmful content and data security on Thursday.

From the beginning of the high-profile hearing, tensions were high as the CEO attempted to offer assurances that the massively popular video-sharing app should not be banned and prioritizes user safety.

Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who serves as the Committee Chair, fired the opening shot saying, “Mr. Chew, you are here because the American people need the truth about the threat TikTok poses to our national and personal security. TikTok has repeatedly chosen a path for more control, surveillance, and manipulation.”

Chew responded, “Let me state this unequivocally, ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country.”

TikTok has been attempting to distance itself from its origin in China; however, the narrative was proved disingenuous after a report from the Wall Street Journal just before the hearing showed that China would oppose any attempts by the U.S. to force ByteDance to sell the app.

“Your platform should be banned,” Rodgers continued. “I expect today you’ll say anything to avoid this outcome, but you are 100 percent responsible for anything TikTok does.”

She continued, “The facts show that ByteDance is beholden to the CCP.”

In a rare display of bipartisanship, Democrats, including ranking Democrat member Representative Frank Pallone, pressured Chew on the moderation practices of the social media platform and how the company intends to secure American data from China and spying on journalists.

However, Pallone seemed less likely to toss out the Chinese video-sharing app altogether. He said TikTok “threatens privacy and security…in its current form.”

Several committee members argued that TikTok needs to do more to moderate the content.

Dramatic moments highlighted during hearing

Democrat Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado decried users seeing Covid-19′ misinformation’ on hydroxychloroquine and wasn’t receiving information on how to access information on self-administering abortions.

GOP Representative from Florida, Gus Bilirakis, played a collection of TikToks that showed pro-suicide content. “Your technology is literally leading to death,” said Bilirakis.

In a dramatic moment, Republican Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida pulled up a TikTok of an individual unloading a gun and threatening the Energy and Commerce hearing. The video had been on the TikTok platform for 41 days but was removed once Cammack showed it at the hearing.

“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,” said Cammack to Chew.

At one point during the hearing, the TikTok CEO was asked whether the parent company, ByteDance, has spied on Americans at the request of the CCP.

“I don’t think ‘spying’ is the right way to describe it,” responded Chew.

“Welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress,” said GOP Representative Buddy Carter of Georgia. He then asked Chew if TikTok’s equivalent in China hosts’ deadly challenge’ videos aimed at children like the version in the U.S.

Chew replied that he did not know. “You heard the chair lady [about lying being a crime], said Carter.

Shou Zi Chew spent 4.5 hours being questioned by the congressional committee.