On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, answer questions before Congress at Capitol Hill last March 23, 2023, and was questioned by lawmakers about potential Chinese influence over the platform, concerns about the app’s power over children in America, threat to national security, and allegations of promoting content that encourages eating disorders among children, illegal drug sales, and sexual exploitation.
TikTok CEO Chew said they’ve been “building what amounts to a firewall to seal off protected U.S. user data from unauthorized foreign access,” but lawmakers deemed CEO Shou Zi Chew answered evasively.
Congress accused the company of aggressively addicting children in online harms in the name of profits. While Chew denied promoting or removing content at the request of the Chinese government and assured congress that the app screens content that could harm children, it remains unclear how lawmakers will proceed after the hearing.
Congress Worried, Safeguard American Data Privacy Concerns, Some Seek Outright Ban
The hearing was a contentious one, with the commerce committee members accused TikTok over the gathering and selling of American user data by the Chinese government. Lawmakers also raised national security concerns and the need to safeguard American data privacy, especially when it comes to security concerns and protecting children from harmful content.
Some 20 U.S. senators in Washington have backed bipartisan legislation giving President Joe Biden’s administration a path to ban TikTok, and the app’s fate has added a new element to tensions between Washington and Beijing. Shares of U.S. social media companies that compete with TikTok for advertising rose on Thursday, with Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc and Snap Inc up.
TikTok CEO Denies Ties to China, Offers Assurances on Child Safety
During the hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew denied any ties to China Communist Party, saying that the app is an American company, in American soil with American personnel. He also stated that the app’s data is stored on servers located in the U.S. and that they do not gather data or sell data to China or any other third-party entities.
Chew also offered assurances to congress on child safety, stating that they have taken steps to promote content moderation and remove harmful content from the platform. He noted that they have more than two years of experience in this area and are continually improving their systems to ensure the safety of all.
Answering Questions and Company’s Ties to the Chinese Government
During the hearing, multiple lawmakers expressed their concerns and criticized the CEO, Shou Zi Chew, on various issues surrounding the app. Democratic lawmaker Tony Cardenas accused Chew of avoiding tough questions about evidence that TikTok has damaged children’s mental health and called him a “good dancer with words.” Chew defended the company’s efforts in content moderation and artificial intelligence, stating that they are investing in limiting such content.
The clear association between Chew’s legal counsel and ByteDance only reinforces the notion that the app is closely linked to the company in China. There are doubts about the effectiveness of Project Texas, which was launched with Oracle to store American data. During the hearing, Rep. Frank Pallone said in his opening remarks, criticized the initiative, stating that it is not enough to protect against China’s influence. While Chew mentioned that Project Texas would create a barrier against international access to US data, the ranking member and lawmakers remain skeptical.
Representative Diana DeGette raised concerns that TikTok’s efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation on the platform weren’t working. She expressed dissatisfaction and potential ban with Chew’s generalized statements about the company’s efforts and demanded concrete action to safeguard American children’s data privacy and mental health.
Another representative, Gus Bilirakis, presented a collection of short TikTok videos during the hearing that promoted self-harm and suicide or directly encouraged viewers to commit suicide. He criticized Shou Chew, saying, “Your technology is literally leading to death. We must protect children from big tech companies like yours, who continue to abuse and manipulate them for your own gain.” Chew responded by saying that the app takes the issue of suicide and self-harm “very, very seriously” and that the company is committed to addressing the issue.
Although not available in China, where its parent company ByteDance offers a Chinese app equivalent Douyin, the hearing was closely watched in the country. Related news posts on microblogging site Weibo garnered millions of views, with many users expressing sympathy for TikTok CEO Chew and criticizing the Biden Administration and U.S.’ “hostility.”
Hu Xijin, a former editor-in-chief of state-run tabloid Global Times, tweeted on Thursday, “The U.S. is robbing TikTok this time, but it is hypocritically going through the process of a hearing.” The Chinese foreign ministry also criticized the U.S. for presuming TikTok’s guilt and “unreasonably suppressing” the company during a news briefing.
ByteDance did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Political Grandstanding and Internet Works
Some have criticized the hearing as political grandstanding like TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter, with committee members using it as an opportunity to score political points rather than to address the issues at hand. However, others argue that it is an important step in ensuring that the internet works for everyone and that companies like TikTok are held accountable for their actions.
Frequently Asked Questions about TikTok’s Influence On US Digital Marketing
How many people use TikTok in the United States?
As of 2023, TikTok has over 150 million monthly active users in the United States.
What is the age range of American TikTok users?
TikTok’s user base is primarily made up of Gen Z and Millennials, with users aged 16-24 making up the largest demographic on the app. However, there are also many users outside of this age range, with a growing number of older users joining the platform.
How many people use TikTok worldwide?
As of 2023, TikTok has over 1 billion monthly active users worldwide.
What is the average time spent on TikTok?
The average TikTok user spends around 95 minutes per day on the app.
What are the most popular types of content on TikTok?
TikTok is known for its short-form videos, often featuring dance challenges, lip-syncing, comedy skits, and other creative content.
Which countries have the most TikTok users?
The countries with the most TikTok users are India, and the United States which had 113 million users last January 2023 alone.
What is TikTok’s revenue?
As of 2023, TikTok’s revenue is estimated to be over $18 billion.
How many downloads has TikTok had?
TikTok has been downloaded over 3.5 billion times worldwide since its launch.
What impact could a ban have on TikTok’s statistics?
A ban could potentially impact TikTok’s user base and revenue, as well as the app’s ability to attract new users and retain existing ones. However, the exact impact would depend on the specifics of the ban and how it is enforced.
How Can a Ban on Using TikTok in USA Affect Digital Marketers?
A potential ban on using TikTok in the United States could have significant implications for digital marketers. Here are some ways it could impact their marketing strategies:
Loss of a Large User Base:
With over 100 million monthly active users in the United States, TikTok has become a popular platform for digital marketers to reach a younger demographic. A ban on using it could lead to a loss of this large user base and limit marketers’ ability to reach potential customers.
TikTok’s algorithmic nature allows for content to go viral quickly, leading to exposure to a large audience. A ban on using TikTok could reduce the exposure of marketers’ content and limit their ability to reach new customers.
Many influencers have built their brands and followings on TikTok, and a ban on using the app could impact the influencer marketing industry. Marketers may need to find new ways to partner with influencers or shift their focus to other social media platforms.
A ban on using TikTok underscores the importance of having a diversified marketing strategy that includes multiple social media platforms and other digital marketing channels. Digital marketers may need to shift their focus to other platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, or Snapchat to reach their target audience.
Changing Consumer Behavior:
A ban on using TikTok could lead to changes in consumer behavior, with users turning to other social media platforms for entertainment and engagement. This could impact marketers’ ability to reach their target audience and require them to adapt their strategies accordingly.
Key Takeaways On The Impact of the TikTok Congressional Hearing on Digital Marketing
With the rise of social media platforms and their influence in digital marketing strategies, the congressional hearing regarding TikTok has served as a warning for businesses to be careful with what digital channels they choose to capitalize on.
The potential implications from this hearing were twofold — ensuring content is monitored adequately while also protecting users’ rights and data. Although there are still many things left unknown, it can be said that companies will need to focus on brand safety and privacy more now than ever. It is clear that the impact of the TikTok congressional hearing resonates with great caution across all areas of digital marketing — from influencer campaigns to targeting ads on social networks — in order for businesses to reach their target audience and remain responsible with customer data.
As marketers traverse forward in this ever-changing landscape, it is important to keep the lessons learned from this event at the forefront of our minds as we assess views about The Impact of the TikTok Congressional Hearing on Digital Marketing.
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