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Thursday, February 1, 2024

TikTok’s CEO can’t catch a break from xenophobia in Congress

At the moment’s listening to on baby security was — principally — an unusually centered affair. The Senate Judiciary Committee known as up the CEOs of X, Meta, Snap, TikTok, and Discord and grilled them for 4 hours on the potential risks their companies posed for youngsters. Lots of the lawmakers emphasised emotional affect, enjoying to an viewers crammed with households who’d had youngsters focused by predators or in any other case harmed on-line.

However halfway by way of the listening to, it was dragged off target by a predictable tangent: the truth that TikTok is owned by Chinese language firm ByteDance. And a gathering ostensibly about protecting youngsters secure dipped right into a now-familiar try to make TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew reply questions totally unrelated to the remainder of the day.

Though makes an attempt to ban TikTok final yr principally fizzled, there are actual issues about its information storage insurance policies and Chinese language authorities affect over its moderation. Some lawmakers touched on them, asking Chew to supply an replace on Undertaking Texas, its information safety initiative. (TikTok remains to be engaged on it.) However the questions additionally strayed into makes an attempt to easily spotlight TikTok’s un-American origins, culminating in Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) urgent Chew aggressively and repetitively on his citizenship — which, it’s extensively identified, is Singaporean.

“You typically say that you just reside in Singapore,” Cotton mentioned earlier than demanding to know the place Chew’s passport was from (Singapore, clearly) and whether or not he’d utilized for citizenship in China or the US (no, mentioned Chew). “Have you ever ever been a member of the Chinese language Communist Get together?” he then requested abruptly, as if hoping to catch Chew unexpectedly. Chew’s response wasn’t shocked a lot as fed up. “Senator! I’m Singaporean!” he reiterated. “No.” (Singapore is just not a part of China.)

The Washington Submit’s Drew Harwell described Cotton’s line of questioning as “McCarthy-esque.” Chew’s relationship to China was already mentioned exhaustively when he appeared earlier than Congress final yr, and Cotton didn’t clarify what it needed to do with baby security right here. It’s not even essential to make the case that China may need undue affect over TikTok. Apple, for example, has weathered years of critiques about its relationship to the Chinese language authorities; no affordable individual has ever instructed this hinges on Tim Prepare dinner being a secret communist. As an alternative, it’s a line of questioning that appears merely designed to play on Chew’s foreignness — even when it’s bought nothing to do with the subject at hand.

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