TikTok users are making fun of Congress members for their questions to app CEO Shou Chew

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TikTok users are making fun of Congress members for their questions to app CEO Shou Chew

New York
CNN
 — 

TikTok creators have had enough of Congress seemingly not understanding how the internet works.

What happened: On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before the House Committee for Energy and Commerce, where he was peppered with questions about concerns over the popular app’s potential national security threats and its connections to China. Governments around the world banned the app on official devices, and there is concern that the app’s parent company ByteDance could be forced to cooperate with the Chinese government. (TikTok doesn’t operate in China.)

The tone from some of its members was combative — something that creators noticed, and mocked, immediately.

Meanwhile, TikTok creators are leading the way ridiculing members of Congress.

“There needs to be an age limit in Congress,” one caption by user @rachelhannahh said about a clip of US Rep. Buddy Carter, who represents Georgia’s 1st district, asking Chew whether the app tracks pupil dilation as a form of facial recognition to drive algorithms.

Chew responded by saying the app does not use body, face or voice data to identify users, and the only face data the app collects is for “filters to have sunglasses on your face.”

‘Why do you need to know where the eyes are if you’re not seeing if they’re dilated?” Carter then asked, resulting in a barrage of comments ridiculing the congressman’s questions.

A spokesperson for Carter said the congressman is not on TikTok because it poses a national security risk.

“TikTok recently updated its privacy policy allowing it to collect biometric data, so it was important that its CEO be on-the-record, under oath detailing what data TikTok collects and whether the Chinese Communist Party has access to that data,” the spokesperson said.

TechCrunch previously reported that TikTok updated its privacy policy “to allow the app to collect biometric data on US users.” However, the company has said it only uses biometrics for video effects and ByteDance employees in China would not be able to access it, TechCrunch reported.

Many of the TikTok video clips suggested Congress members don’t know how modern technology works. They believe members of Congress are detached from technology and unaware of how tech companies within their own country operate, resulting in easily mockable questions.

The app, which has 150 million US users, is facing a potential ban. Among those who’ve heard of TikTok, only 39% of those younger than 30 support a TikTok ban, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll released Thursday.

US Rep. Mike Gallagher, who represents Wisconsin’s 8th district, told CNN during its primetime special Thursday night that the government needs to address TikTok as a national security threat, despite the popularity of the app among younger voters.

“Republicans [and] Democrats agreed this is a threat,” Gallagher, a Republican who chairs the House Select Committee on China, told CNN. “So we can’t ignore it just because of concerns about alienating some teenagers on this app.”

“It’s a national security issue,” he said. “We have to deal with it before it’s too late.”

It’s a bipartisan opinion. The Biden administration threatened a ban if the app’s Chinese owners don’t spin off their share of the social media platform.

“Bro outta pocket,” a user who goes by Whittington said on a clip of US Rep. August Pfluger, who represents Texas’ 11th district.

In the clip, Pfluger said the only other person who united Democrats and Republicans was Vladimir Putin.

CNN has reached out to Pfluger for comment.

The hearing may also have created a new group of lobbyists. ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, flew out more than 30 famous TikTokkers to Washington to advocate for the app, the New York Times reported.

Another clip that has been widely circulating on the app is one of US Rep. Richard Hudson, who represents North Carolina’s 9th district, questioning Chew on how WiFi connectivity works. The “yes or no” style of interrogating on topics that were complex, or frankly irrelevant, were a major point of exasperation for users.

“So if I have a TikTok app on my phone and my phone is on my home WiFi network,” Hudson asked, “does TikTok access that network?”

“Does TikTok access my battery to steal my electricity?” one user said, mocking Hudson.

CNN has reached out to Hudson for comment.

Users are also posting POV’s on the app, renacting their own versions of the hearing.

“What color is the algorithm?” said user Christian Divyne in a video mocking some of the questions Congress members asked Chew.

The video ended up getting over one million views, with over 250,000 likes as of this writing.

– CNN’s Samantha Murphy Kelly and Brian Fung contributed to this report.