Current, former social media execs address national security issues at Senate hearing

The hearing comes after a Twitter whistleblower told the Senate Judiciary Committee about problems he said Twitter has with data security

Former and current executives from Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and more will appear before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday to face questions about social media and security.

The hearing comes a day after Twitter whistleblower, ex-chief security officer Peiter "Mudge" Zatko discussed his former employer's data security failings and how at one point, a Chinese agent had been working for them.

"If you placed somebody on Twitter … as we know has happened, it would be very difficult to Twitter to find them," Zatko said. "They would probably be able to stay there for a long period of time and gain a significant amount of information to provide back on either targeting people or on information as to Twitter's decisions and discussions and to the direction of the company."

Zatko also alleged how Twitter "was over a decade behind industry security standards" and its "cybersecurity failures make it vulnerable to exploitation, causing real harm to real people."


On Wednesday, Twitter's former senior vice president for engineering Alex Roetter and Jay Sullivan, general manager of its "Bluebird" consumer product team, will have a chance to address these issues and more.

Another social media platform that has been criticized for security concerns is TikTok. The company's chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas will appear before the committee during the afternoon session of Wednesday's hearing. 

Pappas's testimony comes weeks after the House Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor issued an advisory Wednesday discouraging lawmakers from using TikTok.


The memo, citing information from the CAO's CyberSecurity office, calls TikTok a "high risk" social media application that could jeopardize individuals' privacy.

The CyberSecurity office pointed to the excessive access to personal information users must grant the Chinese company in order to use the platform.

"TikTok is a Chinese-owned company, and any use of this platform should be done with that in mind," the memo said. "The 'TikTok' mobile application has been deemed by the CAO Office of CyberSecurity to be a high risk to users due to the lack of transparency in how it protects customer data, its requirement of excessive permissions, and the potential security risks involved with its use." 

Earlier this year, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr called on Apple and Google to remove the TikTok app from their respective online stores, citing reports that it harvests "swaths of sensitive data" that is being accessed by Beijing on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.  

"TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funning videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing," Carr wrote. "At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data." 

Carr alleged that TikTok owner ByteDance, a Beijing-based company, is connected to the Chinese Communist Party and "required by Chinese law to comply with the PRC’s surveillance demands." 

On the legislative front, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called for "a regulatory environment with teeth" during Tuesday's hearing, as he and Zatko agreed that the Federal Trade Commission has been "outgunned" when dealing with tech giants like Twitter.

To that end, Graham suggested that social media companies should need licenses to operate in the U.S., providing a means through which to hold them accountable when it comes to issues including privacy and content moderation.


Also expected to appear at Wednesday's hearing will be former Facebook vice president of partnerships product marketing Brian Boland, Lincoln Network senior fellow Geoffrey Cain, Meta chief product officer Chris Cox, and YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan.

Fox Business' Timothy Nerozzi and Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.