TikTok tells U.S. lawmakers it does not give information to China’s government

In this January 6, 2020 illustration, a TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (Reuters) – A TikTok executive faced tough questions during the video-sharing app’s first appearance at a hearing in U.S. Congress on Tuesday, saying that she was not giving the Chinese government any information and was trying to Protect US data.

Senators at the hearing also raised concerns that TikTok, owned by Beijing-based Internet technology company ByteDance, and YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc., are competing (GoogL.O), and Snapchat (SNAP.N)Have algorithms that can be harmful to young people.

Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s Head of Public Policy for the Americas, became the company’s first executive to appear before Congress and testify before a subcommittee of the Senate’s trade committee. Republicans in particular pressed Beckerman over concerns about TikTok’s management of app users’ data.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, the panel’s top Republican, said she was concerned about TikTok’s data collection, including audio and a user’s location, and the potential for the Chinese government to gain access to the information. Blackburn asked Beckerman if TikTok could resist sharing data with China’s government if material was requested.

“We do not share any information with the Chinese government,” Beckerman replied.

When questioned by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Beckerman said that TikTok has “no connection” with Beijing ByteDance Technology, a ByteDance unit owned by 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 that manages access,” Beckerman said.

Republican Senator John Thune said TikTok may be more powered by content algorithms than even Facebook (FB.O)as the app is known for quickly learning what users find interesting and offering them these types of videos.

Beckerman said TikTok is ready to provide the app’s algorithm moderation guidelines so that the Senate panel can have it reviewed by independent experts.

Executives from YouTube and Snapchat also testified. In a non-partisan demonstration, senators from both parties, including Democratic Committee Chairman Richard Blumenthal, accused the three companies of bullying young people and sometimes directing them to information that encouraged harmful behavior such as sexualized games or anorexia.

Executives responded that their companies tried to create a fun experience and excluded dangerous or offensive content.

Former Republican President Donald Trump tried to ban TikTok – a popular platform used by millions of Americans to post short videos – from US app stores because it was collecting data from American users that could be accessed by the Chinese government and pose a threat to US citizens’ security.

Democratic President Joe Biden later revoked Trump’s plan, however, sought a more comprehensive review of various foreign controlled apps.

Reporting by Diane Bartz and Sheila Dang; Adaptation by Will Dunham

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