I watched some video clips about TikTok congress hearing and one thing is clear that most of the lawmakers believe CCP can have full control/influence of TikTok. It is a bipartisan unity that nothing TiKTok CEO said can change! So what is the point of the TikTok congress hearing?

Is it to show to their voters that they are "doing something" about alleged Chinese spying?

P.S. in my original question I mentioned a question "If TikTok can access the home Wi-Fi network or other devices" but as @StuartF rightly pointed out this would sidetrack my question, but instead of just deleting it I would like to add a good technical question Mr. Obernolte asked (thanks @Fizz for telling me that in his comment). As a software engineer myself I think that was a valid question and clearly Mr. Chew is not technical person either and he has no idea what software configuration system is.

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    Is there any reason to suppose it's any different from any other hearing? That is, it's meant to get their faces on camera.
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 12:45
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    Members of congress are not expected to be technical experts and shouldn't be expected to have the same level of knowledge as someone in the field. Granted they should be reaching out to experts to help them ask better questions. Also it should be noted just because some of them are asking bad questions because they don't understand tech doesn't mean that is the case for all of them.
    – Joe W
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 13:27
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    This question is quite biased. Five hours of questions and it just picks one kind of silly question. What does that prove? I'd say almost nothing. Surely there were other questions as well but hey, let's not include them to make the point stronger. Same goes with "all lawmakers believe". If only one of them doesn't (and I think this is quite likely) then this is wrong. A majority may really believe it, but not everyone. Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 21:20
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    @Trilarion there wasn't just one silly question, there were quite some from what I saw, e.g. insider.com/… . I have changed the word ""all lawmakers" to "most of" though, thanks.
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 2:28
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    There seem to be multiple questions here. The purpose of congressional hearings is one question (and somewhat contested, but it is certainly possible to give an answer). Why someone asked a question about WiFi that you consider stupid is a separate question. As it is, this comes across as a CCP propaganda list of whines rather than a serious question, so I suggest you edit it to match the principles of a good question.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 9:30

3 Answers 3


I didn't watch the hearing myself, but at least some of the press has presented it as

Chew often stalled, repeated a set of scripted talking points, and avoided giving direct answers. He maintained composure throughout, yet his boilerplate commentary gave the impression that his bosses at ByteDance had forbidden him from saying anything of much substance.

[...] Chew repeatedly declined to say whether TikTok was a Chinese company or whether many of its executives were C.C.P. members.

So that can be another reason to have the hearings, i.e. someone like me who doesn't have time to watch them, then reads a press report that says that TikTok does seem to have something to hide, as evidenced in the hearings.

And likewise

At times, his responses bordered on unintentionally comedic. When the Republican congressman Neal Dunn, of Florida, asked if the Chinese Communist Party had compelled ByteDance to spy on American journalists, as Forbes reported last year, Chew at first said no, and then, when the question was repeated, “I don’t think ‘spying’ is the right way to describe it.” His constant refrain, particularly regarding details of the platform’s technology, was a punting “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”

I.e, what one comment [to the other answer] said that even if it was the Congresspersons who looked stupid 99% of that hearing, if it yielded one juicy bit like the one above, perhaps they thought it was worth it.

And other Qs, like the one about Uyghurs, were clearly intended to put Chew in a catch-22 situation, so he didn't really answer them, except with more evasion (even though that Uyghurs Q was repeated 4 times). These were definitely intended to cast doubt on his opening statement that "ByteDance is not an agent of China", as in: look he says that, but he toes the CCP line on a lot of topics. (And of course, the Congressperson who asked that then posted the segment on her Twitter account, i.e. it also ties in with Congressperson self-promotion.)

BTW, CGTN's print coverage instead emphasized that Congresspersons "were focused on being xenophobic". And their TV selection of the footage snipped to some one minute when one Congressman insisted on a yes/no answer about some algorithms. The rest was studio commentary that Chew was "verbally brutalized" by "xenophobic behavior". The thing about technical [in]competence it is that's hard to convey to a broad audience. So CGTN seemingly didn't even try that angle much; the studio commentary on that segment instead focused on how unreasonable the yes/no approach was to a complex issue. (There's a longer CGTN segment where there's also some footage from the hearing, but the audio from the hearing was entirely replaced with studio commentary!) Anyhow, few in the US watch CGTN or other Chinese media. And the (5 hours) hearings are too long for most people to watch them in their free time, so they'd rely on some summary.


Public Congressional hearings are nothing but spectacles for voters masked as a serious inquiry. Nothing ever comes out of them besides hours of video footage, as Congressmen don't need these hearings to arrive to any important decisions. At best, these hearings serve to justify a proposed law that's already been decided upon by one of the parties. At worst it's just a waste of taxpayer money and a way for individual Congressmen to show off how tough and inquisitive they are.

So it doesn’t really matter that the CCP controls TikTok behind the scenes. The hearings are happening as a free PR campaign for Congress members and dragging the CEO of a company disliked by many Americans in front of the cameras is a cheap way to attract more votes at the next election. The decision to ban or not ban TikTok will happen regardless of anything said during those hearings.

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    Then like I asked in my question why did some of them ask some really stupid questions ?
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 12:01
  • @Qiulang because they know they can later crop the recordings to only advertise the most juicy parts to their voters. It’s all part of their next reelection campaign and should be seen as such. Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 12:35
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    Well, one could argue the hearing for FTX was quite necessary. Someone has to provide some clarity on public record due to the amount of opaqueness of the whole bankruptcy. Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 14:48
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    Some of us are old enough to remember that before C-SPAN existed, many objected to the introduction of cameras into legislative hearings because it would turn public hearings into spectacles for voters masked as a serious inquiry. Sadly, there is no turning back now. Remember that next time you hear someone advocating for cameras at SCOTUS, Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 14:50
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    @QuantumWalnut it didn’t have to be a public hearing. Congress could’ve done a closed committee and released the findings later. The public part is always a charade. Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 14:54

Talking to someone in charge accomplishes much more than establish their capability in any one context. It also establishes their willingness to act in that context in a certain manner.

Congress can, of course, get technical details from technical experts. But seeing how the person in charge of the operation would respond to their questions allows them to judge their intentions.

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    This does not appear to answer the question of why hold them if they already have their answer.
    – Joe W
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 17:31
  • @JoeW it does so in no uncertain terms. Please, refrain from posting blatantly false statements.
    – wrod
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 17:33
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    I don't see how this answers the question which is why I posted that comment, you are free to disagree with me but don't accuse me of making a false statement when I am stating my opinion.
    – Joe W
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 17:55

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