The TikTok Hearings: Will Congress be able to win the agreement of Americans?  


On March 23 the CEO of Tiktok, Shou Chew, testified in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding the data collection done by TikTok and the online harms that exist on the app. After a long hearing lawmakers seemed unwavering in their negative opinion of TikTok, and TikTok users themselves had garnered plenty of material to make videos about. Luckily, though some questions did seem uninformed or irrelevant, they did not mirror the same lack of tech savvy which was prominent in the questions posed to Mark Zuckerberg during the Facebook hearings.   

Their mission is not misguided. Data privacy is something that has always been important and something that has indeed been infringed on in the past. Moreover, we now live in a world where nearly every website we touch is collecting some form of data; perhaps such bills may indeed serve to provide greater protection to the limitless sphere of the internet. 

A large portion of the questioning, however, seemed to be directed at whether or not the Chinese government, through TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, is collecting data from Amercians and using it maliciously. The problem with this line of questioning is that it likely does little to sway the millions of users of TikTok that might fight back against a potential ban. They were not only putting Chew on the stand; they were also attempting to convince millions of Americans to agree, to an extent, to the dangers of TikTok. This line of questioning likely originates from a fear of communism in the United States and the rising tensions between China and U.S. Young people, who form the majority of TikTok’s user base, do not seem to share these same fear. This may cause a significant push back after a possible ban.  

During the hearing one of the representatives stated that they wish to “hold big tech accountable for its actions.” What would this bill mean for Big Tech as a whole? There exists significant insularity regarding the palace of other tech titans should this bill be passed. And yes, some of these changes may be beneficial, but how does Congress plan on protecting American privacy while also not infringing on their right to free speech? Indeed, some security groups have pushed against the ban due to the “serious reminfication for free expression in the digital sphere.” This insularity causes both concern for the future and makes it more unlikely that the generation of avid internet users will support this bill.  

Through these facets of the hearing it seems like Congress has a long way to go before they can win the agreement of the American people. Yes, it will be up to Congress whether or not to pass the bill. However, without the support of the majority of people its effect will be naught.  

Lawmaking in the internet sphere, as we can see through these trials, is especially nuanced and complicated. I am intrigued and worried to see whether or not the bill is passed and its possible result. Moreover, I hope these efforts of protecting data and privacy also trickle into other spheres. However I do agree that as the world changes so must the law. But the way in which this is done is incredibly important.  

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