The Chinese-owned social media app TikTok confirmed Monday that it will not send a representative to testify before a Senate panel slated to examine the tech industry’s ties to the Chinese government.
Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary hearing will be chaired by one of the right’s most prominent tech hawks, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), and will focus on how Big Tech companies “leave our data exposed to criminals, China, and other bad actors.” In a tweet on Sunday, Hawley said that he invited Apple and TikTok to testify, and claimed that both companies declined the committee’s offer.
“I’ve invited Apple and TikTok to testify on Tuesday about their business in & with China and the risks to American consumers. So far, they are both refusing,” Hawley tweeted Sunday night. “Something to hide?”
“SOMETHING TO HIDE?”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but TikTok confirmed that they won’t appear before the committee.
“We appreciate Sen. Hawley’s invitation. Unfortunately, on short notice we were unable to provide a witness who would be able to contribute to a substantive discussion,” a TikTok spokesperson told The Verge.
The Washington Post was the first to report that TikTok declined Hawley’s offer to testify. It’s his first year in the Senate, but Hawley has quickly become the Republican party’s loudest voice on tech issues. For the past few weeks, Republicans and Democrats alike have sounded alarms in letters and statements about TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, and its alleged connections to the Chinese government.
Last week, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States launched a national security investigation into TikTok after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) requested one last month. Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also penned a letter to a US intelligence official demanding a security assessment.
As pressure mounted on Capitol Hill, TikTok fired back at lawmakers in a blog post saying that the company takes “these issues incredibly seriously.” In that post, TikTok committed to keeping the data of US citizens secure and out of the hands of the Chinese government.
But it’s clear that TikTok’s statements have done little to quell these lawmakers’ concerns. In a tweet, Hawley said that he is prepared to ask “some tough questions” about the company whether a representative appears before the committee or not.
“We remain committed to working productively with Congress as it looks at how to secure the data of American users, protect their privacy, promote free expression, ensure competition and choice among internet platforms, and preserve U.S. national security interests,” a TikTok spokesperson told The Verge on Monday.
By Makena Kelly