Tom Cotton, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Face Off Becomes One of the Awkward Moments in Senate Hearing With Tech CEOs

By Jace Dela Cruz

Feb 01, 2024 03:17 AM EST

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday about the failures of big tech companies to protect kids from sexual exploitation online saw an awkward moment between Senator Tom Cotton and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.

As senators took turns criticizing the CEOs of major social media platforms, the Republican senator from Arkansas took an unusual turn in his questioning directed at Chew.

According to Gizmodo, Cotton asked Chew, "Have you ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party?" 

The question came after a series of inquiries about Chew's citizenship, and Chew responded, "Senator, I'm Singaporean. No."

Big Tech CEOs Testify At Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing
(Photo : Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 31: Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on January 31, 2024 in Washington, DC.

TikTok CEO Tells Tom Cotton: 'Again, I'm Singaporean'"

 After a dramatic pause following Shou Zi Chew's answer, Gizmodo reported that Tom Cotton seriously asked the TikTok CEO again if he had "ever been associated or affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party."

Chew, who seemed to think that maybe Cotton was joking, reiterated, "No, Senator. Again, I'm Singaporean."

Cotton then continued to ask Chew about the Tiananmen Square protests that happened in China in 1989, as he aimed to get an answer from Chew that would confirm that the Chinese social media platform censored mentions of the protest.

However, Chew evaded to directly answer the censorship and said everyone was free to express themselves on TikTok.

READ NEXT: US Company Peloton Partners with TikTok to Offer Short-form Fitness Videos 

Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis 

The hearing, titled "Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis," focused on recent research that underscored the adverse effects of social media on the well-being of children. 

The research revealed kids are exposed to explicit photos and content harmful to their health and making them the targets of child predators.

Despite ongoing concerns about social media, Congress has yet to implement legislation to address these issues, prompting several senators to express their frustration with the lack of progress.

The CEOs of Meta, X, Discord, and Snap were also present at the hearing. Parents who were there brought images of their children who had fallen victim to social media exploitation, according to Gizmodo. 

READ MORE: Why TikTok Star Ava Bamby Is Fighting Against Copyright Infringement 

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