Gap grows between TikTok users, lawmakers on potential ban
NEW YORK: On the one side are dozens of lawmakers on Capitol Hill issuing dire warnings about security breaches and possible Chinese surveillance.
On the other are some 150 million TikTok users in the US who just want to be able to keep making and watching short, fun videos offering makeup tutorials and cooking lessons, among other things.
The disconnect illustrates the uphill battle that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle face in trying to convince the public that China could use TikTok as a weapon against the American people. But many users on the platform are more concerned about the possibility of the government taking away their favourite app.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said during a nearly six-hour congressional hearing Thursday (Mar 23) that the platform has never turned over user data to the Chinese government, and wouldn’t do so if asked.
Nevertheless, lawmakers, the FBI and officials at other agencies continue to raise alarms that Chinese law compels Chinese companies like TikTok’s parent company ByteDance to fork over data to the government for whatever purposes it deems to involve national security. There is also concern Beijing might try to push pro-China narratives or misinformation through the platform.
“I want to say this to all the teenagers out there, and TikTok influencers who think we’re just old and out of touch and don’t know what we’re talking about, trying to take your favourite app,” said Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw during the hearing. “You may not care that your data is being accessed now, but you will be one day.”
Many TikTok users reacted to the hearing by posting videos critical of lawmakers who grilled Chew and frequently cut him off from speaking. Some called a potential TikTok ban, as some lawmakers and the Biden administration have reportedly threatened, the “biggest scam” of the year. And others blamed the surge of scrutiny on the platform on another tech rival, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
But few expressed fear of possible Chinese surveillance or security breaches that lawmakers continue to amplify as they look to rein in TikTok.