Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) tore into TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew during a Thursday morning hearing, accusing him and his company of targeting American children and feeding data to the Chinese Communist Party.
Rodgers, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, held nothing back in a blistering opening statement, saying that the platform specifically and intentionally targets children outside of communist China while protecting their own children from the platform’s harmful content.
“Mr. Chew, you are here because the American people need the truth about the threat TikTok poses to our national and personal security,” Rodgers began. “TikTok collects nearly every data point imaginable, from people’s location, to what they type and copy, who they talk to, biometric data, and more.”
Rodgers argued that TikTok — and Communist China — used the app and the access to data that it provided them to manipulate American culture, adding that she did not believe those in control of the platform would ever embrace or align with American values.
“We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values—values for freedom, human rights, and innovation. TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path for more control, more surveillance, and more manipulation,” she continued. Your platform should be banned.”
Rodgers went on to say that she expected Chew to “say anything” he believed he had to say in an effort to keep the app from being banned in the United States — particularly with regard to the harm it caused children and the app’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
“We aren’t buying it,” she declared.
After detailing the reasons she did not believe TikTok to be independent of the Chinese Communist Party, Rodgers turned the focus to the way TikTok “targets” children outside China’s borders — and the fact that the Chinese government allows more moderation of the app for its own young people.
“The ‘For You’ algorithm is a tool for TikTok to own their attention and prey on their innocence. Within minutes of creating an account, your algorithm can promote suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders to children,” Rodgers explained. “It encourages challenges for them to put their lives in danger and allows adults to prey on our beautiful, beloved daughters.”
“It’s also a portal for drug dealers to sell illicit fentanyl that China has banned, yet, is helping Mexican cartels produce, send across our border, and poison our children,” she continued, adding, “In China, the CCP proactively prohibits this type of TikTok content that promotes death and despair to kids.”