Washington D.C.’s increasing scrutiny of TikTok raises questions over how other big tech companies work with China.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as lawmakers seek to figure out how Congress can safeguard Americans’ privacy and protect children from online harm. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance, has faced bipartisan criticism for its lack of data safeguards and that TikTok users’ data could be surveilled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The hearing arises as the Wall Street Journal reported the Biden administration hopes to force ByteDance to sell its shares in TikTok or face a ban from the United States.
As scrutiny of TikTok has reached new heights, TikTok influencers did not blame public officials; they accused Meta, formerly Facebook, of scrutinizing the controversial app.
TikTok influencers cited a 2022 Washington Post report that Facebook hired a Republican strategy firm, Targeted Victory, to undermine TikTok through a nationwide media and lobbying campaign.
However, in similar fashion to TikTok, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon all harbor national security and mental health risks, according to the Tech Oversight Project.
The Tech Oversight Project wrote in a memo shared with Bloomberg News, that these platforms “force fed children dangerous and harmful content with predatory algorithms, aided US adversaries and worked against US national interests at home and abroad, and failed to protect users’ personal data.”
While the Tech Oversight Project remains highly critical of TikTok, it also raises the question if Congress should adjust focus on holistic data privacy solutions rather than solely a blanket ban on TikTok.
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK): TikTok Is a Bigger CHINESE SPY OPERATION than a “Balloon Over Your House”:
Matt Perdie / Breitbart News
Donald Trump Jr. called for anti-China regulations for all social media platforms to ensure Americans’ private data does not end up in the hands of the Chinese government.
Trump Jr. told Breitbart News that any solution regarding TikTok should also “address national security issues with all of these social media companies who let their data flow through China.”
“Data security and privacy laws in the U.S. aren’t cutting it right now,” Trump Jr. continued. “I’m all for addressing those issues with TikTok, but we’ve also got to look at some of these other companies who are very happy to let TikTok be the punching bag to keep themselves out of the line of fire. So members of Congress need to broaden the way they’re looking at this stuff if we’re going to really solve the problem.”
Senate Democrats such as Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), a data privacy advocate, have echoed this argument.
Wyden said Congress should focus on a “comprehensive policy that starts closing the gaps” in data privacy.
Facebook also faced increased scrutiny after a 2018 New York Times report found that the social media giant had data-sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese electronics companies, including Huawei, which the FCC banned over national security risks, as well as other potential security risks such as Lenovo, Oppo, and TCL.
In February, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA) asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg if developers in Russia and China had access to user data.
Bill Maher: China Gave Us TikTok, the App that ‘Rots our Children’s Brains’:
“It appears from these documents that Facebook has known, since at least September 2018, that hundreds of thousands of developers in countries Facebook characterized as ‘high-risk,’ including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), had access to significant amounts of sensitive user data,” the two lawmakers wrote to Zuckerberg.
Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a trade association representing digital media companies, shared a Facebook audit that found that China had over 86,000 China-based developers that had access to Americans’ private data, in a similar manner to what drove the Cambridge Analytica controversy.
Democrat Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA): TikTok Threatens Security and Families, It Influences Behavior of Kids:
A former senior Trump administration national security official said:
These other Big Tech companies, Meta in particular, have done a masterful job of keeping their China issues out of the spotlight. We definitely focused on TikTok, but we were also concerned about what we were seeing with Facebook’s issues with data flowing through China. We were looking at Apple’s supply chain exposure. We were worried about U.S. pension funds investing in Chinese companies with ties to the PLA. We were concerned with U.S. venture capitalists investing in Chinese firms that could give them an edge in technologies like A.I., machine learning, and quantum computing.
The former Trump official added, “So yeah, anything that touches China could be a problem and from our perspective, Facebook certainly fits that description.”
Sean Moran is a policy reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.
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