While most lawmakers focused on TikTok’s ties to communist China at today’s hearing with its CEO, Shou Zi Chew, Congresswomen Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) focused on what, for them, appeared to be a more important priority: stopping algorithms from becoming racist.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee called the hearing amid widespread concerns on Capitol Hill that TikTok, the product of Chinese company ByteDance, represents a national security risk to the United States.
While committee member Rep. Matsui briefly acknowledged the China issue, the bulk of her remarks focused on woke grievances about racist algorithms.
“Make no mistake, the Chinese government represents a real and immediate threat. Look no further than the vulnerable gear still in our telecom networks that still needs to be ripped and replaced.”
“But we can’t lose sight of the important internet governance issues TikTok and other social media companies represent. I’m especially committed to demanding transparency from large platforms about the algorithms that shape our online interactions, especially for teenagers and young users.”
“And that’s why I introduced the Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act, to bring greater visibility into this ecosystem. My bill would prohibit algorithms that discriminate on the basis of race, age, gender, ability, and other protected characteristics.”
“This bill would require online platforms to publish annual public reports detailing their content moderation practices, which I believe should be a baseline requirement to establish meaningful oversight and consumer choice.”
The bill, which Rep. Matsui co-sponsored with far-left Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), would create an inter-agency task force consisting of the FTC, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Commerce, and Department of Justice, to investigate “discriminatory algorithmic processes.”
Rep. Matsui also advanced a common talking point used by the post-2016 online censorship machine: that social media is responsible for fueling “political extremism.”
“Over the past few years, alarming information brought to light by whistleblowers have shown that social media companies are intimately aware of the effect their products have on young women, political extremism, and more. Despite this, they withheld those studies or declined to investigate further. In either case, it shows a pattern of evasive or negligent behavior that I find concerning or extreme.”
Speaking later in the hearing, New York congresswoman Rep. Yvette Clarke expressed similar woke concerns.
“The problems of social media platforms’ content moderation, algorithmic discrimination and safety are neither new nor unique to TikTok.”
“I share the concerns raised by my colleague, Congresswoman Matsui, related to algorithms. I believe that without mitigation against bias, platforms will continue to replicate, exacerbate discrimination that is illegal under civil rights law, as well as exclude important dialogue about sensitive topics like race from occurring on the platform.”
Rep. Clarke went on to ask the TikTok CEO whether he agreed that there should be transparency requirements for social media platforms to “identify whether policies have a disparate impact on communities that are protected classes, like race, religion, national origin, or gender.”
“It is vital that the diverse culture of the United States is represented online,” said Clarke, alsostating that social media platforms like TikTok need to do better at removing “hate speech” and “domestic terrorism” — a label increasingly applied by Democrats to Trump supporters.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.
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