TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. Chew’s remarks and answers were an excellent example of why we cannot trust the Chinese government or any company associated with China. Chew’s prepared opening statement painted TikTok as a privately owned application that was not only designed to educate its users but is a public service to the American people. He built a case to show how TikTok respects the privacy of its users and that none of the information garnered by TikTok is ever given to or used by the CCP. Nobody, not a Republican or Democrat, in the room was buying what Chew was selling.
I do not support government intervention in business, but TikTok is not a private company, as they claim. ByteDance LTD, a Chinese technology firm, owns TikTok. At the same time that Chew was perjuring himself to Congress, claiming TikTok had no connection to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the CCP released a statement that they would not agree to the sale of TikTok. How do you have a say in the sale if you are not part of the ownership? A direct contradiction, and you have to side with the CCP claim. This example was not the only mistruth by Chew, who was ill-prepared for his testimony. It would not be a surprise if Chew were replaced as CEO and never seen again. That is how China deals with incompetence.
Chew did his best to assure the Congressmen on the committee that TikTok was an up-and-up operator with the operator’s well-being in mind. He was not successful. Data handling, access, sales, and push content were non-existent, and China did not have access. He only accomplished unifying both sides of the room, which never happens, to go on the offense against the TikTok AP and company.
There is inconsistency in Washington and across the country with how to control TikTok. The decision has already been made to restrict the app from every federal government phone and computer. Yet, you have the President participating in a Tik Tok video on St Patrick’s Day. Rep. Cortez created her first TikTok account and video this week after the hearing. Both actions were ill-advised—a mistake by the President and a sign of immaturity by Cortez.
There are 150 million TikTok accounts in the United States. Children are the heaviest users, but adults make big money on the app as “content creators.” Many of these adults are making a significant income and will not be pleased should the app disappear. There are no good options here for Congress. There are no adequate changes to render TikTok safe in the hands of the Chinese but to prohibit access to Americans sets an unwanted precedent for Congress. We do not need the government to become censors of computer applications. With TikTok, I do not see it as censoring a Social Network app but as eliminating a threat to Americans by a foreign adversary. It is a move that must be made, and an American company has to fill the void so everyone can put TikTok in the rearview mirror and forget it.