House Energy Chair Rodgers assails TikTok CEO: 'We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values'

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers tells TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew he'll 'say anything' to avoid a ban

The GOP chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee assailed TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew on Thursday ahead of his first testimony before Congress over the Chinese-owned app’s trustworthiness. 

"We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values, values for freedom, human rights and innovation," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., told Chew. "TikTok has repeatedly chosen the path for more control, more surveillance and more manipulation. Your platform should be banned." 

"Mr. Chew, you are here because the American people need the truth about the threat TikTok poses to our national and personal security. TikTok collects nearly every data point imaginable from people's location to what they type and copy who they talk to, biometric data and more," Rodgers said in her opening statement. "Even if they've never been on TikTok, your trackers are embedded in sites across the web. TikTok surveils us all. And the Chinese Communist Party is able to use this as a tool to manipulate America as a whole." 

With regard to a TikTok ban, Rodgers told Chew, "I expect today you'll say anything to avoid this outcome. Like you're 100% responsible for what TikTok does. That you suddenly endorse a national data privacy standard. That Project Texas is more than a marketing scheme. That TikTok doesn't harm our innocent children. Or that your ties to the Chinese Communist Party through ByteDance is just a myth."


Rep. Cathy Rodgers grills TikTok CEO

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., questions TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew during a hearing on Thursday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon / AP Images)

"We aren't buying it," she said. "In fact, when you celebrate the 150 million American users on TikTok, it emphasizes the urgency for Congress to act. That is 150 million Americans that the CCP can collect sensitive information on and control what we ultimately see here and believe."

"TikTok has repeatedly been caught in the lie that it does not answer to the CCP through ByteDance," Rodgers said. "Today, the CCP's laws require Chinese companies like ByteDance to spy on their behalf. That means any Chinese company must grant the CCP access and manipulation capabilities as a design feature." 

Rep. Frank Pallone questions TikTok CEO

Ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone listens as TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon / AP Images)


Rodgers also noted that ByteDance is under investigation by the Department of Justice for allegedly surveilling American journalists, including both their digital activity and physical movements through TikTok. The chairwoman asserted that many TikTok employees still report directly to Beijing and claimed internal recordings "reveal there is a backdoor for China to access user data across the platform." 

Before Chew addressed the committee, ranking member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., also condemned the app but instead focused on its addictive algorithms causing harm to children and young people. 

TikTok CEO testifies before Congress

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies on the platform's consumer privacy and data security. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon / AP Images)

"Social media's profitability depends on growth and engagement. More eyes on their content for longer time leads to more advertising dollars and revenue generation. Addictive algorithms are fine-tuned to optimize growth and engagement without necessarily taking into account potential harms to users. Children and teens are particularly vulnerable," he said. 

"Frequent online use of interactive media on digital devices is associated with increased levels of depression among middle and high school students," Pallone continued. "Research has found that TikTok's addictive algorithms recommend videos to teens that create and exacerbate feelings of emotional distress, including videos promoting suicide, self-harm and eating disorders. Public outrage and hollow apologies alone are not going to rein in big tech." 


Pallone called on Congress to pass comprehensive privacy legislation and other laws protecting the American public from such online harms and guaranteeing meaningful control over their personal information.