According to the Los Angeles Times, “Congress is scapegoating TikTok.”
“It’s no worse than other social media platforms,” the Times’ editorial board claimed on Friday in great big letters before — one must assume, unintentionally — describing why the wildly popular social media app is actually way worse than other platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook.
The mixed message was in response to the testimony of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew before the House Commerce Committee on Thursday.
Even the editors had to admit that Chew “did not have a successful appearance”:
He did not assuage skeptical members of Congress that his enormously popular social media platform can isolate itself from Chinese government interference. Nor did he convince them that TikTok has done enough to address misinformation, protect children from harmful material or remove content that violates its code of conduct. It didn’t help his cause when Republican Representative Kat Cammack of Florida played a video showing an animated handgun firing in a post threatening the committee and its chairwoman. The video had been on TikTok for 41 days and was removed during the hearing.
The editors searched hard for the silver lining to spin Chew’s testimony and declared that “while TikTok is currently the target of federal inquiry, primarily because of growing anxiety with China’s power and influence, the concerns over user privacy, misinformation and impacts to children are not unique to TikTok.”
“Harmful practices are baked into the business models of social media platforms, including Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube,” they wrote. “An increasing number of state legislatures and lawsuits are attempting to force companies to take more responsibility for building safer products. Congress too should be wielding its regulatory authority more broadly to protect consumers, not just TikTok users.”
But after a bit of “whataboutism,” the board went on to describe the very disturbing reasons why “federal agencies” have “raised alarm” over TikTok, specifically:
The immediate question before federal lawmakers is how to address the national security concerns posed by TikTok’s ties to China. The app was created by Chinese internet technology company ByteDance. Federal agencies have raised alarm because Chinese law requires that tech companies allow government access to user data. There’s also concern that with the platform’s reach — it has 150 million users, or nearly half the U.S. population — and its powerful algorithm, TikTok could be used as a tool to disseminate propaganda or disinformation.
The Biden administration has threatened to ban TikTok unless the app’s Chinese owners sell their stakes.
Chew tried to make the case that TikTok is a private company independent of the Chinese government and could build a firewall to ensure there is no foreign interference. But his argument was undercut by an announcement Thursday from the Chinese Commerce Ministry that would oppose the forced sale. China considers technology a national security issue and has the right under Chinese law to block the export of it.
As BizPac Review reported, when confronted by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) with a Forbes article that alleged TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, surveilled journalists who were covering the company last year using TikTok data, Chew dodged the questions, instead taking issue with the words “surveillance” and “spying.”
TikTok CEO dodges on whether company will cease ‘spying’ on Americans https://t.co/zG8mCAHAfN pic.twitter.com/fSeXKMzTHA
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 24, 2023
“TikTok spied on American journalists,” Rodgers said. “Can you say with 100% certainty that neither ByteDance, nor TikTok employees, can target other Americans with similar surveillance techniques?”
“I disagree with the characterization that it’s ‘spying,’” Chew replied.
Rodgers tried again.
“I wanted to hear you say with 100% certainty that neither ByteDance nor TikTok employees can target other Americans with similar surveillance techniques as you did with the journalists,” she said.
“Again, I disagree with the characterization of ‘surveillance,’” the CEO responded.
But if the Chinese refuse to sell their shares in the app, the Times editors argued, “the Biden administration has limited options.”
“An outright ban would raise significant technical and legal issues, including whether cutting off an extremely well-used mode of speech would violate the 1st Amendment,” they wrote. “What is the U.S. going to do after TikTok? Shut down every popular Chinese- or foreign-owned app?”
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Author: Melissa Fine
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