A top TikTok executive attacked the House Energy and Commerce committee hearing on TikTok, accusing members of “xenophobia.”
TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas said that the hearing “felt rooted in xenophobia.” TikTok itself also blasted the hearing in a statement of its own. The company’s response came after a tense hearing between CEO Shou Zi Chew, in which members from both parties blasted the Chinese-owned social media app for targeting children and violating the data privacy of Americans.
“We’re committed to providing a safe, secure platform, that fosters an inclusive place for our amazing, diverse communities to call home,” Pappas wrote on Twitter. “It’s a shame today’s conversation felt rooted in xenophobia. Thank you to our employees who work tirelessly to protect our platform & community.”
TikTok itself also knocked the committee hearing, claiming that members were engaged in political grandstanding instead of acknowledging the steps the app has taken to improve safety. “Our CEO, @ShouChew, came prepared to answer questions from Congress, but unfortunately, the day was dominated by political grandstanding that failed to acknowledge real solutions already underway through Project Texas or address industry-wide issues of youth safety,” TikTok Comms wrote.
“Also not mentioned today by members of the @HouseCommerce Committee: the livelihoods of the 5 million businesses on TikTok or the First Amendment implications of banning a platform loved by 150 million Americans,” the company added.
Pappas’ comments seemed to stem from an exchange between Chew and Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), in which Lesko asked him to denounce the persecution of Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese Communist Party. Chew repeatedly evaded the question, preferring to talk about the content on the app, but Lesko asked him the question several times.
“Do you agree that the Chinese government has persecuted the Uyghur population?” Lesko asked.
“If you use our app, and you open it, you will see our users who give all sorts of content,” Chew said.
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“Well, it’s deeply concerning to hear about all accounts of human rights abuse; my role here is to explain what our platform does” said Chew, before being cut off again.
“I think you’re being pretty evasive,” Lesko interjected. “It’s a pretty easy question.” She then asked her question a third time.
“Congresswoman, I’m here to describe TikTok and what we do as a platform,” Chew replied. “And as a platform, we allow our users to freely express themselves on this issue and any other issue that matters to them.”
But commenters replying to Pappas’ post pointed out that Chew dodging the question was actually an indicator that TikTok may be compromised by the CCP.
“One of TikTok’s core claims is that it is independent of its Chinese parent, ByteDance,” cybersecurity expert James Gillespie wrote in reply to Pappas. “So it seems reasonable for Congress to ask the CEO if he condemns the Uyghur genocide, because if he won’t that surely says something about how free he feels to displease Beijing.”
“You can see here how well the Chinese communist state apparatus has mastered the idiocies of the West & its media classes – pronouns, safetyism, ‘diverse communities,’ claiming ‘xenophobia’ … a masterclass in understanding & exploiting the West’s neuroses,” journalist Gray Connolly added.
“COO of TikTok says that todays hearing — where CEO of TikTok on several occasions refused to condemn concentration camps filled with a religious minority — ‘felt rooted in xenophobia,’” journalist Zaid Jilani tweeted.
“Calling real concerns about data security and content filtering xenophobic is certainly an interesting approach to take,” CNBC writer Alex Kantrowitz added.