Bulletins

Meta can thank TikTok for its quiet day in Congress

Concerns over TikTok’s potential ties to the Chinese Communist Party gave Meta something it’s never experienced before: a quiet day in Congress.

Meta can thank TikTok for its quiet day in Congress

Chief product officer of YouTube Neal Mohan, chief operating officer of TikTok Vanessa Pappas and general manager of Twitter's Bluebird Jay Sullivan testify during a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

TikTok made a rare appearance before Congress on Wednesday afternoon. Specifically, TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas testified on a panel alongside high-ranking executives from YouTube, Meta and Twitter. The group appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to answer questions about how their respective platforms could be used to promote extremism and civil unrest.


In her opening remarks, Pappas assured the committee that TikTok had adequate data security measures in place to protect U.S. users. Even then, Pappas noted that some China-based employees could access U.S. user data “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls and authorization approval protocols overseen by our U.S.-based security team.”

Pappas was repeatedly asked about the BuzzFeed report that found engineers in China had access to nonpublic U.S. user data. She called the reports “not found” and specifically denied the claim that a master administrator account gave at least one Beijing engineer access to virtually all platform data.

In a heated exchange with Sen. Josh Hawley, Pappas also denied ever sharing data with the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party. The two then engaged in a long back-and-forth over whether any ByteDance employees held CCP affiliations.

“We have thousands of people that work at the company, so I’m not going to vouch on the political affiliation of any particular individual,” Pappas said of China-based employees with potential CCP ties.

“You have no way to assure me that they don’t have access to our citizens’ data, and you won’t answer my question in a straightforward way about whether a CCP member has ever gained access,” Hawley retorted.

This exchange is indicative of the kind of charges Pappas and TikTok faced throughout the hearing. Even to kick things off, Sen. Rob Portman expressed concerns over TikTok operating in the U.S. since “Chinese law requires all companies operating under its jurisdiction to in essence allow the CCP to access every piece of data collected.”

The focus on TikTok made for a quiet outing for the other tech executives — at least relative to hearings of years past.

Meta, in particular, was able to escape the usual scrutiny it has faced in D.C. appearances. Chief product officer Chris Cox said Meta’s ranking goal is simply to “help people see what they find most valuable,” denying that the company tries to keep users on the platform for a specific length of time.

For Meta, the time away from the spotlight isn’t all good. Of course, there’s an obvious benefit to not being the prime target, and TikTok’s ties to China finally gave Congress bigger fish to fry. But the change in spotlight isn’t just about China — Congress is also paying more attention to TikTok because it’s passing Meta as the most influential social platform in the U.S.

Instagram users reportedly spend one-tenth the amount of time on Reels compared to the time TikTok users spend on the platform, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week based on internal Meta documents. Meta denied the accuracy of the report. Regardless, one need not look further than Instagram’s recent redesign to know the future of social looks a lot more like TikTok. So while Meta executives may have enjoyed the time away from the spotlight on Wednesday, perhaps they’ll eventually come to reminisce about those Senate grilling sessions.
Latest Bulletins

Affirm is testing a bonus rewards program for its "buy now, pay later" product, Fast Company confirmed, addressing a major gap between the short-term payment plans and conventional credit cards. CEO Max Levchin first teased the idea in the company's fourth-quarter earnings call in August.

Keep Reading Show less

President Joe Biden on Friday will sign an order to implement the details of an agreement with the EU, including new privacy protections for the bloc's citizens that authorities hope will finally regularize data flows between the two continents.

Keep Reading Show less

David Hatfield has stepped down as co-CEO of cloud security vendor Lacework but will remain on the company's board of directors, Protocol has learned.

Keep Reading Show less

California’s new pay transparency law, SB 1162, promises to shake up compensation in the tech industry by requiring employers in the state to list pay scales in job ads and reveal pay information to both the state and to current employees. We spoke with Susan Alban, operating partner and chief people officer at Renegade Partners, and compensation consultant Ashish Raina to learn how.

Keep Reading Show less

Pour one out for the Lightning cable.

Keep Reading Show less

Carbon dioxide removal service buyers and sellers are focused on one metric: $100 per ton. It’s one of Frontier’s stated criteria that the fund uses to evaluate its advance purchases. In a survey of the long-duration carbon removal community, CarbonPlan found that stakeholders are focused on the $100 benchmark. The Department of Energy even announced that it would be investing in carbon removal research to bring the cost of the technology down to $100 per ton.

Keep Reading Show less

When Google announced the closure of its Stadia cloud gaming platform last week, the news was delivered at roughly the same time to employees, partners, and players on Thursday morning. Within hours, it had become clear that Stadia’s shutdown, planned for next January, would involve more than just refunding consumer purchases and quietly bowing out.

Now developers are scrambling to salvage planned projects, migrate players to other platforms, and figure out whether they’re still owed money from Google before the search giant puts Stadia out to pasture for good.

Keep Reading Show less

Trading of Twitter shares was briefly halted midday as CNBC and Bloomberg reported that Elon Musk now plans to go through with his deal to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share. The news was later confirmed.

Keep Reading Show less

The U.S. is set to unveil a fresh set of policies Thursday aimed at choking off China’s access to advanced chip manufacturing technology and the chips themselves, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Keep Reading Show less

Companies like Meta and Lyft have stopped hiring for the year, and that’s music to the ears of other tech companies that are still staffing up. Much of talent sourcing still takes place on LinkedIn, but many recruiters have found their own techniques to use the service more efficiently. We asked LinkedIn’s VP of talent acquisition and three outside recruiters for their best LinkedIn hacks for sourcing talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Kim Kardashian broke the internet, and according to the Securities and Exchange Commission, she also broke the securities laws.

Keep Reading Show less

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that makes phone calls from California’s prisons free of charge. The new law places the cost of calls not on incarcerated people — or the people receiving calls from them — but on the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

California is the second state after Connecticut and the biggest state by far to institute such a law, which is a direct shot at the $1.4 billion prison telecom industry. For years prison telecom companies have maintained rates that “can be unjustly and unreasonably high, thereby impeding the ability of inmates and their loved ones to maintain vital connections,” the FCC said in 2020.

Prison reform advocates argue the new California law will have a hugely positive impact on the families of incarcerated people in California — and potentially other states that follow California's lead.

Keep Reading Show less

Rohit Chopra arrived as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau one year ago today. True to his reputation as an aggressive watchdog from his time as an FTC commissioner and an earlier stint at the CFPB, he has pursued a busy agenda that’s setting up regulatory battles to come.

Keep Reading Show less
Tech salaries are about to get a lot more transparent. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law to require California employers to post salary ranges in job postings and report hourly pay data by employees’ race and sex to the state. We spoke with four employment lawyers and other pay transparency experts about what this means, and how to comply.
Keep Reading Show less

Microsoft said Friday it's "working on an accelerated timeline" to provide a patch for two newly disclosed vulnerabilities affecting Exchange email servers, which the company acknowledged have been used in attacks on customers.

Keep Reading Show less

Google is stepping up its push for open video formats: The company plans to force hardware manufacturers to support the AV1 video codec if they want to run Android 14 on their mobile devices, according to comments left in recent commits to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) that were first spotted by Esper senior technical editor Mishaal Rahman.

Keep Reading Show less

A troubling new vulnerability affecting Microsoft Exchange email servers has been disclosed by researchers, though details are still emerging on the severity and exploitability of the flaw.

Keep Reading Show less

The gas-powered vehicle ban dominoes have begun to fall.

Keep Reading Show less

Tech industry groups are once again pleading with the 5th Circuit to block HB 20, Texas' on-again, off-again social media law, which the court recently allowed to take effect.

Keep Reading Show less

Sometimes a major "hack" isn't really a hack at all, such as with some breaches caused by the mishandling of APIs.

Keep Reading Show less

The neobank MoneyLion charged service members excessive fees for loans and often refused to cancel paid memberships, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Keep Reading Show less

Google is shutting down its Stadia cloud gaming service, nearly three years after its launch and roughly 18 months since the company shut down its internal game development division.

Keep Reading Show less

Amazon announced pay raises and the rollout of new benefit programs to warehouse employees Wednesday. But one of those products may pose increased risks to the company’s most precarious workers: the expanded rollout of Amazon’s Anytime Pay Program.

Keep Reading Show less

More pay transparency is coming to California. The Golden State is joining New York City, Colorado, and Washington in requiring employers to disclose pay ranges in job ads.

Keep Reading Show less

Cost-cutting in tech is officially hitting the industry’s titans. After years of ruthless staffing up, both Meta and Google have told some employees to find new jobs within the company or leave, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Keep Reading Show less
Bulletins