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Watch: TikTok CEO Refuses to Answer Questions About China’s Uyghur Genocide

todayMarch 24, 2023 12

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TikTok CEO Shou Chew has recently faced criticism for declining three consecutive opportunities to acknowledge the Chinese government’s persecution of its Uyghur population during a House Commerce Committee hearing. Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) asked Chew if he agreed that the Chinese government has persecuted the Uyghur population, to which he responded by saying that he was there to speak only about his company’s activities. When Lesko repeated the question, Chew once again failed to give a clear answer, leading to frustration from the congresswoman and others.

This incident highlights the growing scrutiny that TikTok is facing due to its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance. TikTok is a social media platform that collects a large amount of data on its users and is legally required to hand over any data requested by the Chinese government. FBI Director Christopher Wray has deemed TikTok a national security threat, and President Joe Biden has reportedly issued an ultimatum to company executives, demanding that ByteDance sell TikTok lest it face a national ban.


The company’s links to the ongoing Uyghur genocide taking place in China’s Xinjiang province have also raised concerns. According to a new report from an Australian parliamentary panel, TikTok is linked to this genocide, and a TikTok executive recently refused multiple times to acknowledge China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

TikTok has become incredibly popular over the past several years, but it has also come under intense scrutiny by US lawmakers and security experts. Critics argue that China’s national security laws could force TikTok or its parent, ByteDance, to hand over the personal data of customers in the United States. Security experts have said that the data could allow China to identify intelligence opportunities or seek to influence Americans through disinformation campaigns.

TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew is pictured on the day he will testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing entitled “TikTok: How Congress can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms,” as lawmakers scrutinize the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

The company has also been accused of censoring content that is politically sensitive to the Chinese government, including banning some accounts that posted about China’s mass detention camps in its western region of Xinjiang. The US State Department estimates that up to 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in these camps.

In August, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report that China has committed “serious human rights violations” against Uyghurs, which may amount to “crimes against humanity.” Given a second opportunity to acknowledge China’s alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the TikTok executive once again deferred, stating that he was not an expert on what was happening in China.


This incident has led to further concerns about TikTok’s role in the ongoing human rights abuses in China. Some have called for a boycott of the app, while others are urging governments to take action to protect the privacy and security of their citizens.

In addition to security and privacy concerns, TikTok has also been criticized for surfacing potentially harmful content related to suicide and eating disorders to teenagers. A recent report from the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate found that it can take less than three minutes after signing up for a TikTok account to see content related to suicide and about five more minutes to find a community promoting eating disorder content.

TikTok has responded to these concerns by saying that it does not censor content on behalf of any government and that moderation decisions are made in the United States, not China. The company has also announced new measures to protect its users from harmful content, including the hiring of more content moderators and the implementation of new safety features.

Despite these efforts, however, the concerns about TikTok’s links to the Chinese government and the ongoing human rights abuses in China are unlikely to go away anytime soon. As more and more people become aware of these issues, it will be up to TikTok and its parent company to address them in a meaningful way.

 

One potential solution for TikTok to address these concerns would be to increase transparency about its data collection and sharing practices. By being more upfront about how user data is collected, stored, and used, TikTok could reassure users that their information is being handled responsibly and not being shared with the Chinese government.

Another approach would be for TikTok to take a more active role in addressing human rights abuses in China. This could involve speaking out publicly against these abuses or partnering with organizations that work to promote human rights and social justice.


At the same time, TikTok must also continue to prioritize its user experience and the content it provides. While the platform has faced criticism for promoting harmful content, it has also provided a platform for creativity and self-expression for millions of people around the world.

Ultimately, the success of TikTok will depend on its ability to navigate these complex issues while continuing to innovate and provide value to its users. By addressing concerns about data privacy and human rights, while also fostering a positive community and encouraging creativity, TikTok can build a platform that is both engaging and socially responsible.

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