WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (Reuters) – A TikTok executive was asked tough questions during the video-sharing app’s first appearance at a US congressional hearing on Tuesday.
Senators at the hearing also expressed concerns that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based internet technology company ByteDance, and rivals YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), and Snapchat (SNAP.N) have algorithms that could harm young people.
Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for America, became the company’s first executive to appear before Congress and testify before a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce. Republicans in particular urged Beckerman to raise concerns about TikTok’s management of data about the app’s users.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, the panel’s top Republican, said she is concerned about TikTok’s data collection, including audio and a user’s location, and the potential for the Chinese government to access the information. Blackburn asked Beckerman if TikTok could oppose providing data to the Chinese government if material were demanded.
“We do not share information with the Chinese government,” Beckerman said.
Under questioning by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Beckerman said TikTok has “no ties” to Beijing ByteDance Technology, a ByteDance entity in which the Chinese government took a stake and a board seat this year.
Beckerman also testified that TikTok’s US user data is stored in the United States, with backups in Singapore.
“We have a world-renowned US-based security team handling access,” Beckerman said.
Republican Senator John Thune said TikTok may be powered more by content algorithms than even Facebook (FB.O) because the app is known for quickly learning what users find interesting and offering them those kinds of videos.
Beckerman said TikTok would be willing to provide the app’s algorithm moderation policy for the Senate panel to review by independent experts.
YouTube and Snapchat executives also testified. In a show of discord, senators from both parties, including Democratic panel chair Richard Blumenthal, accused the three companies of exposing young people to harassment and sometimes directing them to information that encouraged harmful behavior, such as sexualized gaming or anorexia.
The executives responded that their companies have tried to create a fun experience and exclude dangerous or unsavory content.
Republican former President Donald Trump had tried TikTok – a popular platform used by millions of Americans to post short videos – from US app stores, because it collected data from US users that could be obtained by the Chinese government and created a threat. for American security.
Democratic President Joe Biden later retracted Trump’s plan but sought a broader overhaul of several foreign-controlled apps.
Reporting by Diane Bartz and Sheila Dang; Editing by Will Dunham
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