Credit: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee recently conducted a hearing focused on children’s online safety under the title “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.” However, Senator Tom Cotton’s inquiries to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew took an unexpected turn.

During the session, top social media CEOs, such as Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Linda Yaccarino, Snap’s Evan Spiegel, and Discord’s Jason Citron, were questioned about platform safety. Zuckerberg even took the opportunity to offer a direct apology to parents impacted by social media-related harm.

TikTok’s CEO Identity Controversy

Despite the critical nature of the topic at hand, the focus shifted during Chew’s questioning. Senator Cotton seemed fixated on Chew’s nationality, seemingly disregarding the essence of the hearing. It’s worth noting that although Chew is of Asian descent, he is not Chinese but rather Singaporean.

Senator Cotton’s interrogation revolved around Chew’s citizenship status. Chew clarified that he is a citizen of Singapore and not any other nation. Despite this, Cotton persisted with his line of questioning, inquiring about Chew’s ties to Chinese citizenship, in which Chew reaffirmed his Singaporean identity and denied any association with the Chinese Communist Party.

Chew highlighted that he might pursue American citizenship in the future due to his family ties. Nonetheless, Senator Cotton continued with misplaced questions about Chew’s perspective on Chinese political matters, veering significantly off course from the hearing’s purpose.

The episode drew substantial online scrutiny, with many condemning Cotton’s questioning as xenophobic and unfounded. Critics likened the situation to scenes from popular culture, highlighting the absurdity of the exchanges.

Concerns About TikTok’s Safety

Cotton’s interrogation, while irrelevant to the hearing’s theme, raised concerns that went beyond the scope of the session. Despite allegations of TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government, questions remain regarding the platform’s commitment to protecting user data.

Chew, who previously gained admiration for his composed responses in similar situations, faced unwarranted scrutiny. Congressional members’ approaches to addressing online safety, especially concerning platforms like TikTok, necessitate reevaluation.


Amanda Yeo

Amanda Yeo

Amanda Yeo is Mashable’s Australian reporter, covering entertainment, culture, tech, science, and social good. This includes everything from video games and K-pop to movies and gadgets.


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