Hawley cautions against foreign meddling through social media data

Marc LaVoie
November 05, 2019 - 9:32 pm
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley speaks in a congressional hearing

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Missouri Senator Josh Hawley had plenty to say at a Congressional hearing he organized to talk about social media and national security, leveling a stern warning about Chinese influence through popular apps.

TikTok and Apple declined to testify at the meeting, though TikTok said it was committed to "working productively" with Congress. 

Hawley has crusaded for greater oversight of social media companies, who is believes scoop up user date to use any way they wish. The senator shared specific concerns about TikTok, a hugely popular social media app, which is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company.

"TikTok claims they don't store American user data in China," Hawley said at the hearing. "That's nice, but all it takes is one knock on the door of their parent company, based in China, from a communist party official, for that data to be transferred to the Chinese government's hands whenever they need it."

TikTok is primarily popular among young people, but there are other users. 

"Some work in governent or for the military," Hawley said. "Others are celebrities or work for major American companies in positions of influence."

Hawley says TikTok and other platforms record who we talk to, what we talk about, where we congregate and what we capture on video.

Hawley stressed the need to protect the identies of the nation's children and to prevent foreign hackers from seeing the data of people in sensitive positions.

"What does it mean for China to have a window into such users' social lives?" Hawley asked. "Why would we leave that window open?"

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