From wifi to filters, the 6 strangest things said by US deputies to the CEO of TikTok

From wifi to filters, the 6 strangest things said by US deputies to the CEO of TikTok

The hearing before the United States Congress (more precisely, before the Committee on Energy and Commerce) by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew (who is?)was staged in the Italian evening of last March 23, but it is definitely still a topical issue: it is talked about a lot on American websites and newspapers but also on social networks. Especially on TikTok, of course.

There is still a lot of talk about it both for the possible consequences it could have and because the deputies who questioned Shou Chew did not seem exactly prepared on the subject: on TikTok, where the hashtag #keeptiktok already has over 52 million viewsthere are many videos that show some moments of the confrontation, making fun of the curious ones curiosity of some politicians.

Below we have collected the funniest ones, even comparing them to those raised during the similar hearing of Mark Zuckerberg in April 2018. But first it is useful to remember why, Shou Chew had to appear before Congress.

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The reasons for convening TikTok

The primary concern is related to national security: fear (which is the same fear that the European Union has) is that the Chinese ByteDance, which is the company that owns TikTok, could give the Beijing government a way to access the personal data of the more than 150 million Americans who have an account on the platform.

Just like the EU did, the US government did prohibited for employees to install the app on their corporate devices, as have other countries around the world.

In addition, there are also fears that the algorithm that governs TikTok and choose what to show to various people (a recommender system similar to the one used by more or less all social networks) can be used to promote China's foreign policy goals.

The other two reasons for convening TikTok

This is the official version, which dates back to TikTok debut in the West but it somehow goes even further back, to the time of the Trump presidency.

And yet there are other reasonsnot explicit but quite evident:

  • the reawakening of these fears comes at a time of heightened tensions between China and the USAunderstandably related to the international situation and also to the war in Ukraine, with the Biden administration announcing new restrictions (for example) to limit China's access to American technology and pressuring international partners to do the same;

  • for at least a couple of years now, TikTok is the fastest growing social network in the Westcapable of snatching increasingly large slices of the market from the competition, which is chasing and is mostly made up of American companies.

Weirdest Things Said by Deputies to Shou Chew

Net of these considerations, however, there were some passages of the hearing that raised more than one eyebrow, caused (much) hilarity online and they also cast doubts on the real usefulness and efficacy of a meeting of this kind. Below we list some of them.

Home wifi issue
Impossible not to start with this: Richard Hudson, MP from North Carolina, asked if "TikTok accesses the home wi-fi network", to which a visibly confused Chew replied that happens "only if the user activates the wi-fi". The MP persisted: "So if I have the TikTok app on my phone and my phone is on my home wi-fi network, does TikTok join that network?" The answer left no room for further replies: "You must log on to the network to have an Internet connection."

The insistence on "yes" and "no" and on the concept of "100% safe"
Another aspect that became evident is the insistence of deputies on having a clear and sharp answer (possibly a "yes" or a "no", as explicitly requested in some passages) even in the face of extremely long or complex questionsto which it seemed objectively impossible to answer only in the affirmative or in the negative.

Or demand absolute certainty: the deputy Cathy McMorris Rodgers, among other things chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, repeatedly asked if “you can 100% guarantee that neither TikTok nor ByteDance are able to spy on American citizens”. Question to which Chew replied in the only possible way: “Our commitment is to protect the data of American citizens from any foreign interference.

This insistence is understood only by remembering that TikTok CEO was under oath during the interview, and that therefore any statement that is not true or does not correspond to the truth (or that subsequently turns out to be not true) could lead to a charge for perjury.

The question of app filters
Rep. Buddy Carter asked if TikTok uses phone cameras to identify people's body or facial data, to which Chew replied explaining that the app doesn't collect that information. With one exception: “We do it for identify where people's eyes are, for example if they decide to use a filter to appear wearing a pair of sunglasses”. At the next “Why do you need to know where the eyes are?”, Chew hinted that it is impossible to put a pair of virtual glasses on the eyes, if the app does not know where the eyes physically are.

The questions that weren't questions
In one of his speeches, the deputy Randy Weber (Texas) he said that “TikTok is actively indoctrinating our children with pro-Communist Party and divisive propaganda.” Then he passed the word to his colleagues.

Viral videos that weren't viral
The congresswoman Kat Cammack (Florida) asked for information about a video commented by only one person: he showed a clip in which the author implied that he wanted to somehow prevent Chew's audition, possibly even with an attack, asking why the video remained online for 41 days. The video had a very low number of views and only one comment, and this explains why: it is possible that it had been overshadowed by the automatic moderation system (without therefore appearing in the For You) and therefore not considered dangerous.

However, during the hearing the video started to gain exposure (probably also thanks to the intervention of the deputy) and then it was removed.

“Don't call it Project Texas”
Many deputies have complained that TikTok has decided to call Project Texas its plan to move all US user data to servers physically located in Texas: “Change his name - asked the Texan deputy August Pfluger - In Texas we support freedom and transparency and have nothing to do with this project".

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