Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) slammed TikTok CEO Shou Chew during a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Thursday over the death of a 10-year-old girl after she attempted the “blackout” challenge that was trending on the China-owned app.
“Last year, a federal judge in Pennsylvania found that Section 230 protected TikTok from being held responsible for the death of a 10-year-old girl who participated in a blackout challenge, also known as the choking challenge. TikTok actually put this video on her feed,” Latta said.
“Unfortunately, this is one of the many devastating examples of children losing their lives because of content prompted by TikTok,” the congressman added. “Section 230 was never intended to shield companies like yours from amplifying dangerous and life-threatening content to children.”
Latta then asked Chew if he considers this “to be a good faith moderation?” to which the TikTok CEO responded by saying, “Well, Congressman, Section 230 is a very complex issue.”
“Do you believe TikTok deserves this liability protection under Section 230?” the congressman reiterated.
Chew responded by saying that Section 230 is “very important for freedom if expression on the internet.”
“Congressman, as you pointed out, 230 has been very important for freedom if expression on the internet. It’s one of the commitments we have given to this committee and our users, and I do think it’s important to preserve that,” Chew said.
Latta concluded by stating that TikTok is “a picture perfect example of why this committee in Congress needs to take action immediately to amend Section 230.”
Elsewhere during the hearing, Latta was able to get Chew to admit that employees of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, currently have access to U.S. user data.
“Do any ByteDance employees in China, including engineers, currently have access to U.S. user data?” Latta asked, to which Chew answered by saying, “After Project Texas is done, the answer is no. Today, there is still some data that we need to delete.”
TikTok CEO Shou Chew does not deny employees at TikTok's parent company in China have access to Americans' sensitive user data pic.twitter.com/CHyRhUGMWb
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 23, 2023
Under China’s laws, ByteDance can be forced to hand over the data TikTok has collected on U.S. citizens to the Chinese Communist Party.
As for TikTok being a danger to youths, the example Latta gave during the hearing is just one of many ways in which the Chinese app can and has destroyed young lives.
Recently published research found that it only takes about ten minutes after creating a TikTok account for the Chinese platform’s algorithm to start pushing suicide videos to 13-year-old children.
Earlier this month, the University of Massachusetts had to warn its students about a new drinking trend on TikTok, which has resulted in 28 ambulances being called to off-campus parties in the area. The trend involves students creating a “blackout rage gallon” of alcohol, flavoring, and other ingredients.
Earlier this year, a 12-year-old girl in Argentina died after participating in the deadly “choking challenge,” the same challenge Rep. Latta mentioned during Thursday’s hearing. In this case, the girl’s death was filmed in a video call while her classmates watched as she attempted the challenge.
Last summer, a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old in the UK allegedly died due to attempting the same TikTok challenge.
Last September, the FDA warned parents of a deadly new TikTok challenge that involves children cooking chicken in NyQuil, “presumably to eat.”
In 2020, another TikTok challenge involved urging users to take large doses of the allergy medication Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to induce hallucinations. The challenge resulted in reports of teens being rushed to the hospital, and in some cases, dying.
Watch the full hearing below:
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