Wednesday’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee got a little spicy as senators took turns bashing the CEOs of the biggest social media platforms. While well-deserved for the most part, it was Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, who decided to go down a weird path with TikTok CEO Shou Chew.
“Have you ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Cotton asked Chew after taking a dramatic pause from asking the CEO multiple questions about what country he was a citizen of.
“Senator, I’m Singaporean. No,” Chew replied with a smirk as if maybe this was a joke told by the gentlemen from Arkansas.
“Have you ever been associated or affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party,” Cotton asked seriously, clearly showing he was not joking.
“No, Senator. Again, I’m Singaporean,” Chew answered giving a quick glance forward as if to say, “Oh, he was serious about this.”
Sen. Cotton went on to ask Chew about the Tiananmen Square protests that happened in Beijing in 1989. He, along with other Senators, attempted a “gotcha” moment with Chew regarding the massacre in hopes that the TikTok CEO would confirm that mentions of the protest were censored on the Chinese social media platform. Instead of directly answering about censorship, Chew evaded the question saying everyone was free to express themselves on TikTok.
The hearing, titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis,” focused on recent research that found social media is harming children’s health, exposing them to explicit photos, and making them the targets of child predators.
Congress has yet to pass legislation regarding social media, but multiple Senators did vaguely call for an end to stalled progress—again.
On hand for the hearing along with Chew were Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, X CEO Linda Yaccarino, Discord CEO Jason Citron, and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. In the audience for the hearing were families of parents holding up pictures of their children victimized by social media. In a very awkward moment, Zuckerberg stood up and proceeded to apologize directly to the audience.