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TikTok’s CEO can’t catch a break from xenophobia in Congress

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Right this moment’s hearing on child safety was — largely — an unusually centered affair. The Senate Judiciary Committee referred to as up the CEOs of X, Meta, Snap, TikTok, and Discord and grilled them for 4 hours on the potential risks their providers posed for kids. Most of the lawmakers emphasised emotional influence, enjoying to an viewers full of households who’d had children focused by predators or in any other case harmed on-line.

However halfway via the listening to, it was dragged off track by a predictable tangent: the truth that TikTok is owned by Chinese language firm ByteDance. And a gathering ostensibly about conserving children secure dipped right into a now-familiar attempt to make TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew reply questions totally unrelated to the remainder of the day.

Though makes an attempt to ban TikTok final 12 months largely fizzled, there are actual issues about its knowledge storage insurance policies and Chinese language authorities affect over its moderation. Some lawmakers touched on them, asking Chew to supply an update on Project Texas, its knowledge safety initiative. (TikTok remains to be engaged on it.) However the questions additionally strayed into makes an attempt to easily spotlight TikTok’s un-American origins, culminating in Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) urgent Chew aggressively and repetitively on his citizenship — which, it’s extensively identified, is Singaporean.

“You typically say that you simply dwell in Singapore,” Cotton stated earlier than demanding to know the place Chew’s passport was from (Singapore, clearly) and whether or not he’d utilized for citizenship in China or the US (no, stated Chew). “Have you ever ever been a member of the Chinese language Communist Social gathering?” he then requested abruptly, as if hoping to catch Chew abruptly. Chew’s response wasn’t shocked a lot as fed up. “Senator! I’m Singaporean!” he reiterated. “No.” (Singapore will not be a part of China.)

The Washington Put up’s Drew Harwell described Cotton’s line of questioning as “McCarthy-esque.” Chew’s relationship to China was already mentioned exhaustively when he appeared before Congress final 12 months, and Cotton didn’t clarify what it needed to do with little one security right here. It’s not even essential to make the case that China may need undue affect over TikTok. Apple, as an example, has weathered years of critiques about its relationship to the Chinese language authorities; no affordable individual has ever recommended this hinges on Tim {Cook} being a secret communist. As a substitute, it’s a line of questioning that appears merely designed to play on Chew’s foreignness — even when it’s acquired nothing to do with the subject at hand.

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