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Congress Hearings Over TikTok Social Media App Are 'Anti-China Witch-Hunt'

© AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana / TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce CommitteeTikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.03.2023
Social media app TikTok has been banned on official cellphones on both sides of the Atlantic, but now faces US legislation that could see it shut down. Technologist Chris Garaffa, a co-host of the Covert Action Bulletin podcast, pointed out the hypocrisy of those moves.
The US Congress probe into mobile phone social media app TikTok is just a "witch-hunt" against its Chinese owner, a technology expert has said.
TikTok US CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday over claims the video-sharing social media app was a threat to US national security and children's welfare.
Committee chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers kicked off the grilling with the assertion that "your platform should be banned" — as it has been on official government-issued devices in both the US, UK and European Union.
Chris Garaffa told Sputnik that the app, developed by Chinese software firm ByteDance, was no more sinister than any of its leading US competitors.
"TikTok is not, in general, doing anything special in terms of what data it's collecting," Garaffa said. "It is what videos you're watching. It's what followers you're following. It's what you share."
He pointed out that US-based social media sites and mobile device apps do the same thing, including Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta*, as well as Reddit and Twitter.
"Recently, there was a report that says 'TikTok wants to get everything on your phone.' Well, yes, TikTok, if you are creating on it, needs access to your camera and microphone. That is technically true. So does Instagram. So does Facebook. So does any camera app," he said.
The tech expert said he found the spectacle of the televised hearings "really enraging."
"This is not an investigation into actual concerns. This is an anti-China witch-hunt trying to just demonize China," Garaffa said. "They're not even letting him answer questions. They will throw these awful accusations out and then he'll say 'May I respond to that?' And they'll say 'No, the time is up. We're going to move on'."
"This has absolutely nothing to do with algorithmic justice. It has nothing to do with the defense of children," he continued. "This has everything to do with a bipartisan effort to take aim squarely at the People's Republic of China."
Visitors tour the Forbidden City decorated with red lanterns and illuminated with lights during the Lantern Festival in Beijing, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.03.2023
China Says US Showed No Proof of TikTok Being National Security Threat
The pundit noted that Congress representatives were preparing legislation to address those concerns, along with banning the practice of selling users' data to third parties for commercial use — but only since the furore over the Chinese-made app.
"It's unfortunate that this is how any action has to come," Garaffa said. "The way it's been it's been discussed in these hearings... is that it's about protecting Americans from foreign companies, from China, not actually about protecting the privacy of Americans in general."
He called out the "absolute hypocrisy" of Congressmen accusing TikTok of supplying information to the Chinese government when they passed laws forcing US social media firms to work with the National Security Agency (NSA) in snooping on US and other countries' citizens.
"TikTok is being singled out because China, China, China," Garaffa underlined. "If this were a Russian company, it probably already would have been banned at this point." But "no one's talking about banning Facebook because it's collecting information."
* Meta is banned in Russia for extremist activities.
For more sharp analysis, check out the latest episode of Sputnik’s podcast Political Misfits.
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