Senators DEMAND Answers in Damning Letter Over New TikTok Revelations

June 9th, 2023 5:40 PM

TikTok has found itself once again in deep waters over its alleged mishandling of Americans’ private data, after the launch of a bipartisan congressional probe.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) issued a letter to embattled TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew “demanding immediate answers” about a recent report that TikTok funneled the personal information of TikTok users to Chinese-based servers. According to a bombshell report by Forbes, TikTok stored the social security numbers and other financial information of Americans, in communist China. The report contradicts Chew’s sworn congressional testimony in which he claimed the U.S. data is held in Virginia, a point highlighted in the damning letter.

“We are disturbed by TikTok’s pattern of misleading or inaccurate responses regarding serious matters related to users’ safety and national security, and request that TikTok correct and explain its previous, incorrect claims,” Blackburn and Blumenthal wrote of TikTok’s under oath and public claims that American consumer data was stored in the U.S. and backups were in Singapore.

"I'm glad to see a bipartisan effort to hold TikTok accountable for its dubious statements about American users' data," said MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. "But as FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has said in the past, taking TikTok's assurances about user data being held safely in servers at face value is not enough as this recent report shows. Carr even suggested that a national ban would be the only solution to TikTok's misdeeds."

Forbes reported on May 31 that TikTok knowingly used internal databases from its parent company, communist Chinese government-tied ByteDance. ByteDance is at the center of a potential TikTok ban in the U.S. following congressional demands that TikTok separate itself from ByteDance or face a complete U.S. ban. However, TikTok executives, including Chew, have repeatedly downplayed its financial ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

“These reports directly contradict statements you and other TikTok representatives have made to the public and under oath before Congress about where TikTok stores U.S. user data and the ability of employees in China to access that information,” the bipartisan senators continued while blasting the social media giant for what they described as a “pattern of misleading or inaccurate responses from TikTok to Congressional oversight.”

Chew testified in a contentious congressional hearing in March where he was pressed over whether TikTok user data was sent to communist Chinese servers. When questioned about ByteDance’s financial ties and where TikTok data was held, Chew claimed, “American data has always been stored in Virginia and Singapore in the past.” Later in his testimony, Chew added, “I don’t know of any other company in my industry who is offering this level of transparency.”

Blackburn and Blumenthal blasted Chew’s omission of the Chinese servers, and wrote, “Nowhere in your response did you mention that TikTok stores user data in China, or that information about U.S. users— including sensitive information like photos and driver’s licenses or reports containing illegal materials like child sexual abuse materials — would be shared on Lark, and therefore accessible to ByteDance employees.” According to The New York Times, Lark is a messaging app used by both TikTok and ByteDance employees to exchange information, including the personal information of users.

The two senators concluded by demanding a series of answers to questions related to the servers and ordered TikTok to answer by June 16, 2023.

Read the full letter here.

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