WASHINGTON, Oct.26 (Reuters) – A TikTok executive faced tough questions on Tuesday when the video-sharing app first appeared at a U.S. Congressional hearing, saying it was not giving information to the Chinese government and sought to protect US data.
Senators at the hearing also expressed concern that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based internet technology company ByteDance, and its competitors YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and Snapchat (SNAP. N) have algorithms that can be harmful to young people. .
Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s public policy manager for the Americas, became the company’s first executive to appear before Congress, testifying before a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee. Republicans in particular pressured Beckerman to be concerned about TikTok’s handling of app user data.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, the top Republican on the panel, said she was concerned about TikTok’s data collection, including audio and a user’s location, and the potential for the Chinese government to access to information. Blackburn asked Beckerman if TikTok could resist giving data to the Chinese government if documents were to be demanded.
“We do not share information with the Chinese government,” Beckerman replied.
Asked by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Beckerman said TikTok had “no affiliation” with Beijing ByteDance Technology, a ByteDance entity in which the Chinese government took a stake and a seat on the board of directors this year.
Beckerman also said that US TikTok user data is stored in the United States, with backups in Singapore.
“We have a world-renowned US-based security team managing access,” Beckerman said.
Republican Senator John Thune said TikTok may be more focused on content algorithms than even Facebook (FB.O) because the app has a reputation for quickly learning what users find interesting and offering them that kind of content. videos.
Beckerman said TikTok would be willing to provide the app’s algorithm moderation policies for the Senate panel to have independent experts review.
Executives from YouTube and Snapchat also testified. In a display of bipartisanship, senators from both parties, including Democratic panel chairman Richard Blumenthal, accused the three companies of exposing young people to bullying and sometimes of directing them to information that encouraged harmful behavior such as sexualized games or anorexia.
Executives responded that their companies have sought to create a fun experience and exclude dangerous or unsavory content.
Former Republican President Donald Trump had sought to ban TikTok – a popular platform used by millions of Americans to post short videos – from U.S. app stores, claiming it was collecting data from U.S. users who could be obtained by the Chinese government and pose a threat to a US national. Security.
Democratic President Joe Biden then revoked Trump’s plan, but called for a broader review of various foreign-controlled applications.
Reporting by Diane Bartz and Sheila Dang; Editing by Will Dunham
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