Live updates: TikTok CEO testifies to Congress as scrutiny mounts on the Chinese-owned app

TikTok live updates: CEO faces Congress as the U.S. considers banning the app

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TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will make his first appearance before a congressional committee as Congress and President Joe Biden consider reining in or even banning the app in the U.S.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is testifying before Congress for the first time today.Bryan van der Beek / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Updated March 23, 2023, 1:32 PM UTC


What to know about today’s TikTok hearing

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at 10 a.m. ET. The hearing will focus on the app’s data privacy practices, how it protects children from “online harms” and its connection to the Chinese Communist Party, according to a release.Congress and President Joe Biden are looking at ways to crack down on the app, including a Congress and President Joe Biden are looking at ways to crack down on the app, including a potential U.S. ban.Congress and President Joe Biden are looking at ways to crack down on the app, including a potential U.S. ban.Chew will testify that TikTok is safe and secure and that it shouldn’t be banned. He’ll also note that 150 million people in the U.S. are active TikTok users, underscoring how entrenched the app has become in the three years Washington has sought to rein it in.

TikTok CEO to appear before Congress amid growing security concerns

Creators protest potential TikTok ban in D.C. before hearing

A group of about 30 content creators gathered outside the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday, holding signs that echoed their plea to lawmakers: “Keep TikTok.”

The TikTokers — who have a collective following of over 60 million people — joined Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif., for a rally to discuss their opposition to a potential ban. 

“I use TikTok to share a love of my family and our journey through foster care and adoption, and through that I’ve been able to create a community of people from all over the world,” TikTok creator Jason Linton, known as @dadlifejason, said while addressing the crowd. “I’m asking our politicians: Don’t take away the community that we’ve built.”

‘Ban TikTok’: GOP Sen. Tom Cotton says ‘American data is at risk’

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said nothing TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew says during his congressional hearing “will change the fact that American data is at risk.”

Cotton introduced one of the bills to ban the Chinese-owned social media platform in the U.S., saying that it collects private information of American users “and provides the Chinese Communist Party with access to that information.”

“Ban TikTok,” Cotton declared in a tweet Thursday morning before the hearing began.

Tech lab tells TikTok to stop citing its work

The head of the Citizen Lab, an academic research project at the University of Toronto, said Wednesday night that he is “disappointed” that TikTok executives continue to cite its work as a defense of the app’s data practices.

“I’ve called them out on this in the past, and it’s unfortunate that I have to do it again,” Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert wrote.

The lab published research in 2021 that found TikTok collected data like many other apps, but could not tell what the company did with that data.

“The conversation about potential privacy and national security concerns with TikTok should serve as a reminder that most social media apps are unacceptably invasive-by-design, treat users as raw materials for data surveillance, and fall short on transparency about their data sharing practices,” Deibert added.

TikTok ban would be ‘a slap in the face’ to young voters, activists warn

In the nation’s capital, the debate over banning TikTok has largely focused on whether the app’s Chinese parent company poses a security threat to Americans.

But behind closed doors, Democrats are also being forced to weigh whether blocking the popular video platform could come with heavy political costs.

In 2020, Aidan Kohn-Murphy used TikTok to rally support for Joe Biden. Now, he’s trying to use the platform to stop Biden from killing it. 

“I’m not defending TikTok as a company, I’m defending my entire generation,” said the 19-year-old Harvard freshman who, as a high schooler during the 2020 campaign founded a group called TikTok for Biden. It has since changed its name to Gen Z for Change, formally incorporated as a political nonprofit group, and says it now includes 500 creators with a combined 500 million followers on multiple platforms.

“If they went ahead with banning TikTok, it would feel like a slap in the face to a lot of young Americans,” he added. “Democrats don’t understand the political consequences this would have.”

TikTok CEO to tell Congress the app is safe and shouldn’t be banned

TikTok’s CEO plans to tell Congress the social media platform is safe and secure for teenagers and other users and that it won’t be accessed or influenced by the Chinese government, according to his prepared remarks.

In his first appearance before Congress, Chew will also confirm that TikTok now boasts 150 million users in America — a 50% increase since 2020, as NBC News has reported, a sign that it’s now an integral part of American society.

Many of those users in the U.S., he will say, are artists, musicians, chefs and other creators, as well as small-business owners, in a clear appeal to Republican members of the panel.

What a TikTok ban would mean for users

TikTok hasn’t yet indicated it will sell, but it has tried to persuade U.S. officials that they can address security concerns and meet the level of proposed scrutiny. TikTok’s CEO has argued a ban wouldn’t address security concerns.

But what would a ban mean for consumers? Is there any precedent?

NBC News spoke with four people who have studied cybersecurity, national security and technology policy who offered some ideas about how a TikTok ban could work.

Chew makes his first appearance before Congress today

Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at 10 a.m. ET.

It will be his first appearance before a congressional panel since he took over as CEO in April 2021.

The hearing, titled “TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms,” will be led by Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and ranking member Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

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