- The Washington Post pilloried Republican representatives probing TikTok CEO Shou Chew at a hearing on the platform, contending that it should not be disallowed after the publication has made revenue from its popularity.
- The Post acknowledged legitimate concerns of TikTok but also argued they have been excessively heightened.
- “There’s little evidence that TikTok poses more of a privacy threat than other apps,” wrote The Post in part one of their Friday briefing newsletter.
The Washington Post came to the defense of TikTok, a China-owned social media giant, after GOP lawmakers hammered the company’s CEO during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday.
In a Thursday evening piece, the Post’s editorial board acknowledged national security concerns over TikTok, but suggested that banning the app, which many GOP lawmakers support, would be a win for “techno-nationalism and a defeat for an open world and open web.” However, the editorial board’s anti-TikTok ban piece came out after TikTok reportedly bought ads with the Post. Likewise, the paper also has a TikTok account with 1.6 million followers and its own “TikTok team.”
Thursday’s hearing featured lawmakers from both parties, in particular Republicans, grilling TikTok CEO Shou Z. Chew over his company’s ties to China through its parent company ByteDance. Lawmakers’ concerns were based on previous reporting that TikTok has spied on American journalists and that its China-based employees have access to U.S. user data. The Post editorial board, however, characterized these concerns as being “focused not on what has happened but on what could happen.”
Chinese law mandates the company to hand over user data to the government if it is told to and employees in China have accessed Americans’ information, the editorial board wrote. But “it’s also true that the United States’ lack of a federal privacy law means most data with potential value to an adversary is already available for purchase on the Internet,” the editorial board added.
The editorial board also cited research claiming that Russia’s 2016 attempted election interference through social media was not significantly impactful and therefore “orchestrating a TikTok conspiracy might not prove all that effective compared to, say, hacking and leaking legitimate documents.”
Additionally, writers for the Post came to TikTok’s defense and attacked GOP representatives who questioned Chew.
In the Post’s YouTube livestream following the hearing, journalist Taylor Lorenz stated she thinks the lawmakers seem “detached” and clueless about how TikTok works.
In response, cry bully @TaylorLorenz whines about GOP criticism of TikTok: “I think that these lawmakers seem completely detached from reality according to a lot of these TikTok users. It’s very clear that they have no understanding of how the app works…” pic.twitter.com/fhZJmjIUX7
— Kevin Tober (@KevinTober94) March 23, 2023
The fight to ban TikTok is a “reflection of the fact that political power is wielded by a group that generally doesn’t use the platform,” according to an analysis in the Post titled “The TikTok fight is a generational fight” published Wednesday.
The analysis also characterized the critique that TikTok is utilized to serve the Chinese government as “a theoretical claim denied by the company.”
Similarly, the Post referred to worries regarding TikTok’s algorithm and user data being vulnerable to propaganda and espionage as “speculation” in an article titled “A former TikTok employee tells Congress the app is lying about Chinese spying” published on March 10.
The Post said “”there’s little evidence that TikTok poses more of a privacy threat than other apps” in part one of their Friday briefing newsletter.
Chew could have followed Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s lead by depicting TikTok as “aligned with American values of free expression, using these principles to justify shortcomings,” suggested the Post in an analysis titled “Chew is missing a chance to tout TikTok’s American Values” published during the hearing. (RELATED: Rep. Gary Palmer Calls Out Smirking TikTok Lobbyist Sitting Directly Behind CEO)
TikTok’s flawed content moderation and lighter censorship reflect that it is separate from its Chinese parent company, which is “something one might think American lawmakers would appreciate,” the analysis continued.
In the same vein, the Post cited civil liberties advocates arguing disallowing TikTok would infringe on Americans’ fundamental freedoms in an article titled “A TikTok ban could violate Americans’ First Amendment rights” published by the Post during the hearing.
The Biden administration has called for TikTok to divest itself from its parent company ByteDance or else be banned in the U.S. because of national security risks, according to The Wall Street Journal. ByteDance has reportedly surveilled American journalists, according to Forbes.
Despite ByteDance acknowledging and condemning the surveillance, a Tuesday article in the Post repeatedly stated that the U.S. government did not provide proof to support its concerns about the Chinese spying threat.
The Washington Post did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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