By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The chair of a U.S. House of Representatives panel wants TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to address questions next week about the popular Chinese-owned video app’s efforts to protect children from inappropriate content and potential exploitation.
Chew will be appearing for the first time before Congress when he testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23.
Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, said Thursday lawmakers “need to know what actions the company is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms.”
McMorris Rodgers and other Republicans in December wrote TikTok saying said “many children are exposed to non-stop offerings of inappropriate content that TikTok’s algorithm force-feeds to them.” They also raised concerns that TikTok livestreamed events allow adult TikTok users to offer monetary rewards to “persuade children to perform sexually suggestive acts.”
TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, said the Biden administration had threatened to ban the app in the United States if its Chinese owners did not sell their stakes in the company.
“Americans deserve to know the extent to which their privacy is jeopardized and their data is manipulated by ByteDance-owned TikTok’s relationship with China,” she added. The U.S. government has raised concerns that TikTok’s user data could be passed on to China’s government.
TikTok, which did not immediately comment, said earlier this month it is developing a tool that will allow parents to prevent their teens from viewing content containing certain words or hashtags on the short-form video app.
TikTok announced new features to help users limit the amount of time spent on the app. Accounts belonging to users under 18 will automatically have a time limit of one hour per day, and teens will need to enter a passcode to continue using the app.
TikTok and the Biden administration have been negotiating for more than two years on data security requirements. TikTok said it has spent more than $1.5 billion on rigorous data security efforts and rejects spying allegations.
The Biden administration demand for divestiture was the most dramatic in a series of recent steps by U.S. officials and legislators.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)