Republican senators on Friday challenged TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew over reports it is allowing Russian media content but barring other videos.
The senators wrote that they are “deeply concerned” that TikTok “is enabling the spread of pro-war propaganda to the Russian public, which risks adding to an already devastating human toll for both Ukrainians and Russians.”
“Recent reports indicate TikTok… has allowed Russian state media to flood the platform with dangerous pro-war propaganda. No company should find itself in the position of amplifying the Kremlin’s lies, which fuel public support for Russia’s war of choice in Ukraine,” said the letter, led by Steve Daines and signed by John Cornyn, Roger Wicker, John Barrasso, James Lankford and Cynthia Lummis.
The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment. the social media site said in a statement to Reuters that the company was looking forward to continuing to engage with members on these issues and answer their questions.
Reuters reported in March the Chinese-owned video app said it would suspend live-streaming and the uploading of videos to its platform in Russia as it reviewed the implications of a new media law signed by President Vladimir Putin.
The senators said the social media site has failed “to equally enforce this policy” and cited a news report that said it “appears TikTok belatedly closed this loophole on March 25.”
The letter added the “misleading, pro-regime content that flooded the service has not been taken down, creating an easily-accessible archive of pro-war propaganda” and asked the social media site to answer a series of questions.
TikTok, owned by Beijing-based internet technology company ByteDance, has been under mounting US scrutiny over the personal data it handles. At a US congressional hearing last October, the company faced tough questions from US lawmakers.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, the panel’s top Republican, said she was concerned about the social media site’s data collection, including audio and a user’s location, and the potential for Beijing to gain access to the information. Blackburn questioned TikTok on whether the company could resist giving data to China’s government if material were to be demanded.
TikTok is one of the world’s most popular social media apps, with more than 1 billion active users globally.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara