Rep tells TikTok CEO that lying to Congress is federal crime during Tiananmen Square discussion

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers represents the state of Washington. We regret the error.

The chair of the House committee holding a hearing about TikTok on Thursday reminded the company’s CEO that lying to Congress is a federal crime during a brief exchange about the availability of certain content on the platform. 

The warning from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who leads the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, came as she questioned CEO Shou Zi Chew about the availability of content about the Tiananmen Square massacre, when Chinese authorities crushed pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989. 

Thousands of people were killed during the massacre, and the Chinese Communist Party has sought to censor mention of the incident on the internet and elsewhere.

McMorris Rodgers first asked Chew whether TikTok has used content moderating tools to remove posts on the platform about the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur ethnic group in the Xinjiang province, which the United States has described as a genocide involving crimes against humanity.

“We do not remove that kind of content. TikTok is a place of freedom of expression,” Chew responded. 

McMorris Rodgers then asked if any content about the Tiananmen Square massacre has been taken down, to which Chew responded that content about the massacre is available on the platform. 

“I will remind you that making false or misleading statements to Congress is a federal crime,” she replied. 

Chew said he understood, but he insisted that such content is available.

A user search on the platform shows a wide range of accounts and videos discussing Tiananmen Square. 

The Guardian reported in 2019 that internal documents from TikTok revealed restrictions on certain issues that the Chinese government does not want discussed, like the massacre. 

Chew has insisted that TikTok is independent of the Chinese government, and TikTok has said the government does not direct any content moderation choices.

Facing bipartisan concerns over the security of U.S. users’ data, Chew has maintained during the hearing that the platform is not subject to moderation by the Chinese government despite being owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance.

Updated at 1:38 p.m.

Tags ByteDance Cathy McMorris Rodgers Cathy McMorris Rodgers Shou Chew Shou Zi Chew TikTok

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