US House Energy and Commerce Committee members battered TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew about potential Chinese influence over the popular video-sharing platform, displaying fears that the app was somehow being used by China’s Communist Party as a spying tool.
The questions posed by the boomers who dominated the committee have been shared widely across the internet, clearly showing how the lawmakers were out of their depth trying to put the chief executive of one of the world’s most popular social media platforms on the spot.
Some of the questions seemed to be the brainchild of WhatsApp University’s course on absurd conspiracy theories while others were outright racist.
Here, we look at five of the most ludicrous questions.
1. Mr Chew, does TikTok access the home wifi network?
A visibly confused Chew responded that he did not understand the question posed by representative Richard Hudson.
When the question was repeated, Chew, after a long pause, said that it does [access the wifi] like many other apps in the industry.
2. What is your salary?
In a bid to prove the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party, ByteDance and TikTok, several personal questions were asked of the CEO. Besides his salary, he was also asked if he owns shares in ByteDance or Douyin. Chew refused to answer all questions, and rightfully so. Being a representative of a company does not mean that an individual is compelled to disclose their personal assets.
3. Why do you need to know where the eyes are if you’re not seeing if they’re dilated?
One of the representatives asked if the application uses the phone’s camera to determine a pupil’s dilation.
Chew responded that the eyes are only detected when a user uses a filter and that is required only because the eye position needs to be detected for the filter to apply.
He also added that the app does not collect data, which is stored locally and deleted. The politician responded: “I find that hard to believe”.
Perhaps, the congressman’s children can now explain to him what a filter is and how they are part of all social media apps around the world.
4. Are you a Chinese company?
This question, even though it was addressed by Chew in his opening speech when he said that the company was headquartered in Singapore and Los Angeles, was asked five more times in different ways.
Despite his answer remaining the same every time, the committee’s members seemed unable to accept the fact.
5. That would include you, Mr Chew?
And finally, when talking about a Chinese law which mandates citizens to help intelligence agencies and maintain secrecy, Representative Dan Crenshaw asked Chew a hypothetical question.
“If you’re ever called by by the Chinese government, would you give them TikTok data?”
“I’m a Singaporean,” Chew responded.