© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Tik Tok logo is seen in front of U.S. flag in this illustration taken October 6, 2020. Picture taken October 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration//File Photo
By David Shepardson and Echo Wang
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Republican senators on Friday asked TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew about reports the social media site had allowed Russian state-approved media content but barred other videos.
“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 senators wrote they were “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.”
The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment. TikTok 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 TikTok 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 TikTok to answer a series of questions.
TikTok, owned by Beijing-based internet technology company ByteDance, has been under mounting U.S. scrutiny over the personal data it handles. At a U.S. congressional hearing last October, the company faced tough questions from U.S. lawmakers.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, the panel’s top Republican, said she was concerned about TikTok’s data collection, including audio and a user’s location, and the potential for the Chinese government 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.