The CEO of TikTok was being grilled by members of a House committee on Thursday, and one exchange in particular seemed to encapsulate the early going. A big concern of lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee panel is that because TikTok is owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance, China's government could gain control of the site's data to spy on Americans.
- GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the committee's chair, asked CEO Shou Zi Chew to declare with "100% certainty" that the Chinese government couldn't use TikTok or ByteDance for surveillance or manipulate TikTok content, per the Wall Street Journal.
- Chew didn't directly make that guarantee and objected to the premise of the question, but he said TikTok pledged to keep out "all unwanted foreign access" and to keep content "free from any manipulation from any government."
- To which Rodgers responded, "If you can’t say (it's) 100% certain, I take that as a ‘no.'"
- Watch part of the exchange here. After Rodgers asserted that TikTok allowed the surveillance of journalists, Chew rejected that characterization.
TikTok has vowed it is not under the sway of Beijing, and Chew reiterated that point. “Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,” he said, per the AP. The White House is pushing a plan to force TikTok's Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the company, and China declared hours before the hearing that it opposes such a move, per the New York Times. It would "seriously undermine the confidence of investors from various countries, including China, to invest in the United States,” said China's commerce ministry. Rodgers cited the statement to make her case that TikTok is ultimately controlled by Chinese leadership. "I have zero confidence in your assertion that ByteDance and TikTok are not beholden to the CCP.” (Read more TikTok stories.)