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CNN Live Event/Special

Lawmakers Grill TikTok CEO Over China & Spying Concerns; Gallagher: TikTok Can Spread Misinfo And Influence Elections; Krishnamoorthi: "We Need A Change" To Combat TikTok Threat. Aired 9- 10p ET

Aired March 23, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: 150 million Americans use TikTok. Its CEO was on Capitol Hill, today, being grilled by lawmakers, who want the app banned, in the U.S., saying it's a national security risk.

CNN's Abby Phillip dives into all the pressing questions, in the CNN PRIMETIME Special, "IS TIME UP FOR TIKTOK," which starts right now.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, CNN PRIMETIME (voice-over): TikTok, it's used by celebrities.

TOM HANKS, AMERICAN ACTOR: Whoa! My first ever TikTok!

PHILLIP (voice-over): Politicians.


PHILLIP (voice-over): And almost half of all Americans.

SHOU CHEW, TIKTOK INC. CEO: More than 150 million Americans on TikTok.

PHILLIP (voice-over): The TikTok CEO, grilled on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers look to ban the platform.

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R-WA): TikTok is a weapon by the Chinese Communist Party to spy on you.

CHEW: I first of all disagree with the characterization, that is, spying.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And warn of possible mental health impacts, for kids.

REP. GUS BILIRAKIS (R-FL): Your technology is literally leading to death.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Tonight, we'll talk to popular TikTokers, about why they log on.

JASON LINTON (ph), TIKTOK USER: I'm asking our politicians don't take away the community that we have all built.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And answer your questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What data elements are being collected?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teens are finding ways around all these parental controls.



PHILLIP: Good evening. I am Abby Phillip.

It's one of the most popular social media apps, on the planet, and it is also one of the most controversial. A billion monthly active users, over 150 million, right here, in the United States. They shoot and they share videos, on TikTok, for fun, or they watch them, and others earn entire incomes through it.

So, many of the nation were watching today's high-stakes hearing, over on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, absolutely pummeled TikTok CEO, with questions, many of them arguing the app should be completely banned, in the United States, over concerns that it is controlled by Communist China, along with its parent company, to spy on users, or even influence those who think that they're simply watching videos.


CHEW: ByteDance is not owned or controlled by the Chinese government.

There are more than 150 million Americans, who love our platform. And we know we have a responsibility to protect them.

MCMORRIS RODGERS: To the American people, watching today, hear this. TikTok is a weapon, by the Chinese Communist Party, to spy on you, manipulate what you see, and exploit for future generations.


PHILLIP: But the lawmakers' concerns about TikTok, they go well beyond the issue of spying.

Shou Chew was also grilled, in the more than five-hour session, about TikTok's potentially harmful impacts, on our children. The Ranking Member, of the committee, citing research, about algorithms that recommend videos, to teens that promote suicide, self-harm and even eating disorders.

For much more, on what went down, and what's next, for TikTok, let's bring in CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich. So, Vanessa, the whole goal, of this hearing, today, for TikTok, was to convince lawmakers, not to ban the app, completely. So, how did he do?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: He made a convincing argument. But he certainly did not convince lawmakers that TikTok doesn't have some connection to China.

And this is a CEO, who does not like the spotlight. But he was on one of the world's biggest stages, today, for five and a half hours. Out of the gate, he made the argument that TikTok is not an agent of China. But that fell on deaf ears. Even before he started speaking, many of these lawmakers had already made up their minds.

There was a few exchanges that were incredibly tense, but also important, where Shou Chew tried to convince lawmakers, of the fact that China doesn't have control, over TikTok. But he was unsuccessful.

Listen to one of those back-and-forths.


CHEW: I have seen no evidence that the Chinese government has access to that data. They have never asked us. We have not provided.

REP. ANNA ESHOO (D-CA): Well you know what? I find that--

CHEW: I have asked that--

ESHOO: --I find that actually preposterous.

CHEW: I have looked in.

ESHOO: I really--

CHEW: I have seen no evidence of this happening.

And in order to assure everybody here, and all our users, our commitment, is to move the data, in -- into the United States, to be stored, on American soil, by an American company, overseen by American personnel.

ESHOO: I don't believe that TikTok has -- that you have said or done anything to convince us that -- that that information, the personal information of 150 million Americans that the Chinese government is not going to give that up.


YURKEVICH: Now, it's important to note that the U.S. has provided no public evidence that China is in fact using U.S. user data, to spy and surveil Americans.


But it's also important to talk about the fact that both Democrats and Republicans are united on this issue. So, where do we go from here?

This hearing probably made it more possible, for legislators, to come up with something that would possibly restrict severely TikTok, here, in the U.S.

As far as a ban or sale of TikTok? Those are more unlikely. A ban would likely face legal challenges, just as it did, with the Trump administration, in 2020. And a sale, well, if ByteDance even allowed the sale? That would be quite expensive. A U.S. buyer, Abby? Your guess is as good as mine.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it is -- there are billions of dollars tied up in that.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you very much.

Now, the focus on today's hearing, in Washington, was Washington and TikTok. But 150 million people, across the United States, use that app. So, what could all of this mean, for them?

Here to discuss that is Kara Swisher, Host of the podcast, "Pivot," and "On with Kara Swisher"; and the U.S. Editor in Chief, of TechRadar, Lance Ulanoff.

Kara, want to start with you.


PHILLIP: Look, this was a tense hearing, today, to say the least. I want you to take a listen to, I think, one of the key moments, from today's hearing.



REP. BOB LATTA (R-OH): Do any ByteDance employees, in China, including engineers, currently have access, to user -- U.S. user data?

CHEW: Today, all U.S. user data is stored, by default, in the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

LATTA: Question, answer the question.

CHEW: And access to that is controlled--

LATTA: Question is do any ByteDance--

CHEW: --by American personnel.

LATTA: --employees, in China, including engineers, currently have access to U.S. data?

CHEW: Congressman, I would appreciate. This is a complex topic. Today, all data-- LATTA: Yes, or no. It's not that complex.

CHEW: --is stored by default--

LATTA: Yes or no? Do they have access to user data?

CHEW: We have -- after Project Texas is done, the answer is no. Today, there is still some data--

LATTA: Yes. So, you're saying that yes--

CHEW: --that we need to delete.


PHILLIP: I do wonder, I mean, shouldn't that question--


PHILLIP: --have a yes or no answer? I mean, it seems like what they're saying is that in the future, they won't. But do they now?

SWISHER: Right. Well, for Mr. Chew, that's the thing. They're working on it. They're moving it in this -- through this Project Texas, to using Oracle Database. Oracle is a U.S. company, a big database company. And so, they're moving it here.

Now that -- he cannot say truthfully, that they couldn't. And that's one of the issues, such as what was going on with the reporter, who they were accessed, by people, in China.

And so, the fact that they can is an issue, and they've got to move it here, and pull it away, from China doesn't mean it hasn't been copied there. This is a super-complex thing. And that's why he was declining to answer fully.

There is not a yes or no answer. Data is global, now, and it's everywhere, including Facebook data, et cetera, et cetera. So, it's a really difficult problem, and especially because it's the Chinese government involved.

PHILLIP: Yes. And Lance, 150 million people, I mean, that's a huge number.


PHILLIP: And they revealed that this week to show that this would not be an easy feat.


PHILLIP: To ban TikTok. What would that look like?

ULANOFF: Well, I mean, people, I think that was sort of mischaracterized, during the hearing, in which they kept talking about young people, dancing, singing. And obviously, it's far more than that.

People have made businesses on it. They are selling things. They are selling ideas. They are teaching people things. They are finding communities, within TikTok.

And I talk about how it has all these niches. And part of that has to do with the powerful algorithm that sort of rabbit-holes you down those niches. But you can learn about virtually anything there, and you can also build it into businesses. People have done this.

PHILLIP: So, can you put the genie back in the bottle?


PHILLIP: At this point?

ULANOFF: Here's the thing. I believe that no social media is permanent. People move very quickly from one to the other.

So yes, the genie is out of the bottle. Half of America is using it. They'll be really upset, if it's gone. But guess what? Something else would rise up, in its place, if it went away, and it would probably look a lot like TikTok.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, Kara, perhaps no one knows this better than you. You've seen a lot of platforms come and go.

SWISHER: Come and go.

PHILLIP: But it strikes me. And this is a question that I hear a lot from people. Aren't all of these platforms, taking your data, stealing your information?


PHILLIP: If the Chinese government really wanted to know everything about you, through Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram?


PHILLIP: Couldn't they get that information? So, are these national security concerns, about TikTok, overblown, in anyway?

SWISHER: Well, I would like to see the proof, actually.

And that's what was lacking here, with these congress-people, making these assertions. Maybe they have it. Maybe they don't. We don't know. And so, it's kind of evidence-free, not totally, but pretty evidence- free, some of the assertions, they were making. And it may be the case that there is stuff we're not seeing. Now, yes, they can buy it from data brokers.


By the way, what was really interesting is the enthusiasm, these legislators had, which they've never had, for U.S. companies, which have been doing all kinds of data shenanigans, for years and years. But, in this case, because it's the Chinese government, they can pontificate, for the cameras, et cetera.

They should have been doing this, a long time ago, and shutting down the data brokers, passing a national Privacy Bill. But because it creates headlines, like this, and they can attack, Mr. Chew, it makes for good things.

But they can't really, if they're starting to clamp down, on TikTok, like this, they really should have been looking at all of them, and coming up, with a way, to protect consumers, in general, across the globe, from all these data incursions.

PHILLIP: That's such a good point. And it seemed to be very absent, from today's hearing.


SWISHER: Yes. Yes. Sure is.

PHILLIP: There is a lot of concern, about teens and kids, and look, social media, in general.


PHILLIP: Do you believe that there's anything unique, about TikTok that makes this app more dangerous?

ULANOFF: Well, OK, so this problem that they talked about? And they went into harm, to children and teens, and sort of body dysmorphia, and all those things that you can pick up.

Any social media, virtually any social media that is addictive, in some way that keeps you scrolling has that possibility? We've certainly seen it with Instagram. We've seen sort of people's thought process has shifted, based on the information that they see, in their thought bubble, on Facebook.

So, the difference with TikTok is, I think, they have one of the most masterfully-built algorithms I have ever seen. And if you choose your people, and if you choose what you want, you're going to see a lot of it.

And unfortunately, what that is meant is that if you're in a bad place, and you start rabbit-holing, on TikTok, guess what? It keeps feeding you more.

PHILLIP: But they can do something about that?


PHILLIP: And I think that's what their critics say.


PHILLIP: They do that with the Chinese version of the app. But they don't do that--

ULANOFF: Yes, well--

PHILLIP: --with the American version.

ULANOFF: Yes. I also -- it was weird, because there's all cultural differences there, they weren't addressing. But yes, there's more they can do.

And this is the thing. What I wanted in this hearing was to hear solutions, to start to pick apart, what are you actually going to do, to work on this? And he just gave the same answer over and over again, but partly because he was just batting them back, and not having a chance to talk about what are the tools, what are the technologies.

All they talked about is the one thing they have done, the 60-minute time limit--


ULANOFF: --that no one is paying attention to?

PHILLIP: That everyone could get around.

ULANOFF: Right, you can get around that pretty easily.

PHILLIP: Yes. Kara -- Kara, we only have about a minute left. But the opponents of TikTok, some of the people pushing this, you can't help but notice, are their competitors, other social media companies, Silicon Valley VCs--


PHILLIP: --who have financial interests, in seeing TikTok's downfall.


PHILLIP: What role does that play in your mind?

SWISHER: Yes, that's -- imagine that! They, of course, they want it.

TikTok's the most popular product out there, because it's a really good product. And many years ago, I wrote a column, saying I love this product. I'm using on a burner phone, because of the Chinese government, the links to the Chinese government.

The fact of the matter is, this, it will help Facebook Reels, which has been doing much better than it used to. It will help a lot of other social media sites, primarily Facebook. And that's one of the issues here.

Again, these legislators should be thinking more broadly, across the entire social media spectrum. The things you're talking about teens are happening everywhere, and it's happening even among adults. I mean, Twitter is no nirvana garden party. It's a very toxic place. And so, this is a bigger issue that they should be dealing with. But,

in this case, they're going to aim it at TikTok because of the links with the Chinese government et cetera.

One last point I'll make is there's a lot of U.S. investors, in this thing, so you got to follow the money on this thing.



SWISHER: Because it's a lot of money, for a lot of investors. And a lot of them are U.S. investors.



SWISHER: So, that's going to be another issue.

PHILLIP: A very good point. I mean, they say 60 percent of TikTok is owned by foreign and Western investors.


PHILLIP: Kara Swisher and Lance Ulanoff, thank you very much, for all of that.

And is TikTok really is dangerous, as you're hearing? Well, I'll ask two lawmakers, who head up an early push, to ban the app, coming up next.



PHILLIP: For one brief morning, in Washington, it seems both parties were united, today, with lawmakers, coming together, to grill TikTok's CEO, over on Capitol Hill.

And my next two guests are from opposite sides of the aisle. But they head up the powerful House Select Committee on China. And they were among the first, to propose this idea of banning TikTok.

Joining me now, China committee Chairman, Republican Mike Gallagher; and also, Ranking Member, Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Congressmen, both of you, thank you for being here.

Congressman Gallagher, I want to start with you.

Look, the TikTok CEO, Chew, said today, on Capitol Hill, that TikTok is not an agent of the Chinese government. They've also proposed this plan, they're calling it Project Texas that would take Americans' data, bring it to the United States, put it in a firewall, basically protecting it from anyone, in China, who might want to gain access to it.

So, my question to you is, why does that not assuage your concerns, about how TikTok is handling this data?

REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): Because Project Texas, which we've reviewed, and been -- and met with TikTok, to discuss Project Texas, doesn't really address the core issue, which is control of the algorithm.

And so long as ByteDance, which is the parent company that owns TikTok, which is effectively controlled by the CCP, controls the algorithm, they can use this app, as a platform, for spreading disinformation, influencing what news, Americans see, influencing future elections.

That's the concern, which is why we favor either a ban or a forced sale. We have the only bipartisan, bicameral bill that would do either of those two things.

And so, thus far, I have not been satisfied with what I heard, from TikTok, on this issue.

PHILLIP: And Congressman Krishnamoorthi, on the politics of this, briefly, I mean, look, there are 150 million American users, of this app, many of them younger people.

Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, said recently that if TikTok is banned, "The politician in me thinks you're literally going to lose every voter under 35."

I mean, shouldn't you be concerned about alienating this younger generation?


REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): I think, I come from the school, good policy makes good politics. And my constituents, I'm sure, Mike's and (inaudible) know, first of all social media is disturbing, to begin with, but secondly, to have a social media company, beholden to the Chinese Communist Party?

Remember, at this hearing, it was pointed out, to Mr. Chew that ByteDance, the parent company actually used the location data, from TikTok, to spy on journalists. And yet, he wasn't willing to even admit that.

And so, when you have that situation that -- I think that's why so many of us are scratching our heads, on both sides of the aisle. And we need a change.

PHILLIP: That's one example, you're just talking about. The TikTok CEO said, those employees, they were fired. He seemed to characterize it as an isolated incident.

But I do wonder, Congressman Gallagher, on the broader issue, of whether China will take this algorithm, for example, and manipulate Americans, take Americans' data, and use it for some nefarious purpose? Do you have hard evidence that that has happened? And why would it not have happened, at this point? 150 million users, why would China not have done that until this moment?

GALLAGHER: We have evidence not only of TikTok employees, using the app, to go after journalists. We have evidence of certain storylines that are unfriendly to the Chinese Communist Party being suppressed. Raja has dug into this issue, of "Heating," on TikTok, which is very troubling.

Then we have every major national security official, in our government, the FBI Director, the CIA Director, the NSA Director, the DIA Director, the Director of National Intelligence, all voicing significant concerns, about this app.

In bipartisan fashion, we banned it, on government devices, which really proves the point that Republicans and Democrats agreed this is a threat.

So, we can't ignore it just because concerns about alienating some teenagers, on this app. It's a national security issue. We have to deal with it before it's too late.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And, by the way, can I just jump in? I really, I strongly doubt this app's going to go dark. It's going to get sold, to another company, because it's a very valuable property. So, our concern is not just with necessarily the app itself, but it's more about the ownership structure.


KRISHNAMOORTHI: And that needs to change.

PHILLIP: Is this then a leverage play? Is the hope here, that by threatening to ban TikTok, you force a sale?

GALLAGHER: Well, the hope is that Congress will take action.

And again, we're trying to work with our colleagues, to use our bill, use Senator Warner's bill, which brings up this broader issue, of cross-border data flows and ICTS process, use Chairman Mike McCaul's bill, and it's even come to a commonsense compromise, where Congress is speaking with one voice, on this issue, not just defer to the Executive branch.

We believe the CFIUS process could, or I believe, the CFIUS process could force a sale, or a ban. There's some debate about that. But it's always better, in my opinion, when Congress acts, and doesn't just depend on the Executive branch.

PHILLIP: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, real quick, how likely do you think a ban is? I mean, could it happen by the end of this year?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that legislation could pass by the end of this year, in both houses, that would end up being some kind of compromise between the different bills that Mike was alluding to. I do think the Biden administration wants Congress to act. They have said that congressional authority is necessary, in this particular area. And we intend to give it to them.

PHILLIP: And Congressman Gallagher, I have to ask you this, because the TikTok CEO brought up some American values, when talking about what was at stake here, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of commerce. And it is, I think, a fair point that Congress is now trying to meddle in what is a private company.

Do you have any concerns that what Congress is attempting to do here is not in line with traditional American values, and perhaps is playing the same game that China does, in its own country, where there is not as much freedom as there is here?

GALLAGHER: I have concerns that the very notion of a private company, which exists in the United States, does not exist in China, when any company, particularly ByteDance, where we have overwhelming evidence, of them being beholden to the CCP, is at the whim of the beck and call of the Chinese Communist Party.

And as for those values he listed? The enemy of all those values is the CCP. So, that's my concern.

PHILLIP: All right, Congressman Mike Gallagher, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, both of you, thank you very much for joining us.

GALLAGHER: Thank you so much.


PHILLIP: And we invited TikTok, onto the program, tonight, but they declined. They did however provide this statement.

They said that "TikTok has taken unprecedented actions to address" the "national security concerns by securing U.S. user data on U.S. soil. The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we were already implementing.


Building trust with our diverse and vibrant community is critical to achieving our mission to inspire creativity and bring joy. We will continue working to build a safe," and "secure, and innovative platform for our 1 billion strong community."

And up next, for us, it is not just fun videos. A lot of people rely on this platform, to make a living, including our next guests, who will make a strong case, against banning TikTok. The real life impact, a ban could have, on them, coming up, just ahead.



10,000 of you saw my sustainable vegan baby content, and said, "I want to follow her." So, thank you for that.


They have a community that's a targeted demographic that trusts them. This is gold for brands.


PHILLIP: All right, those are two top TikTok creators, each with their own massive followings. And like many other TikTokers out there, they are not just making videos, for fun. They've turned their content, into full-time jobs, and a full-fledged business. So the question now is, I mean, what could a TikTok ban, really mean, for them?

So joining me now is Hannah Williams, the CEO and Founder of Salary Transparent Street.


And Ashley Renne Nsonwu, author of the upcoming book "Vegan Baby Cookbook" -- which I was telling Ashley that I -- I need. I need for my baby who's not vegan, but we need "Vegan Baby Cookbook".

So, Hannah, I want to start with you, though, on the point of salary transparency.


PHILLIP: This is your -- this is your thing.

WILLIAMS: This is my wheelhouse.

PHILLIP: Can you tell us, how much money do you make on TikTok?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I make -- well, I don't make money on TikTok. But with the business I've made -- yeah, I've set my salary at $200,000 a year.


WILLIAMS: My fiance is also our cameraman, and one of our editors, and he makes $65,000 a year. So --

PHILLIP: So you make --

WILLIAMS: More than I did before.

PHILLIP: -- a good six-figure salary from TikTok. So if this app goes away, what would that practically mean for you?

I mean, could you find another place to do what you're doing?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think the benefit with my businesses, I've -- I've really built out a full fledged business that stands on its own outside of TikTok, so I would lose half of my following. We have a little over 2 million followers, 1.2 mil of that is on TikTok.

So I would take a hit. I'm pretty confident that I'd be able to find ways to work around it. But what concerns me really is other small businesses that have not built a six-figure business and that really rely on TikTok to make a living.

PHILLIP: And, Ashley, look, TikTok, we've been talking a lot about this big number, 150 million users, but it's also become a place for communities of color to find each other, advocates. I think maybe you would consider yourself a little bit to be an advocate to find each other?


PHILLIP: So, tell us -- tell us about that.

NSONWU: Yeah, so I consider myself to be an advocate. I'm a creator. You can call me an activist and author.

And, you know, for people like me, you know, Black and Brown people, people of color, it would be very detrimental to us. I mean, let's be honest. You know, our histories is being -- they're being taken out of history books.

And so, now, you want to take away a platform that we rely on to have our voices heard. It's very upsetting for a lot of us because we rely on these spaces to, you know, talk about the issues that really matter to us.

And now, we're talking about banning that. So where are we supposed to, you know, gather and talk about the issues that really impact us?

PHILLIP: But are you -- are you swayed at all? I mean, we were talking about the hearing today. Were you swayed at all by any of the national security concerns, the privacy concerns that were raised about the app?

NSONWU: Oh, I am definitely -- I agree. There are valid concerns about mental health issues, about security issues. No one's denying that.

However, my concern is a singling out of this particular app. Why TikTok? Why not Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, all of these other social media platforms?

There have been studies that have linked Instagram as well to body image issues, depression, social anxiety and a plethora of other problems that young people face. It's not just TikTok. So this is not just unique to this one particular app, and that's my

concern. I think that's a concern for a lot of people who use TikTok is why TikTok and not everyone else.

PHILLIP: Yeah. And, Hannah, and you were shaking your head when I asked about the security concerns. I mean, what are you hearing from your followers? I don't know how much they're following this issue, about the prospect that this younger generation that's come up with these apps, lot of them live on TikTok, it could go away.

WILLIAMS: I'm hearing a lot of support for TikTok. I'm not hearing a lot of negativity towards TikTok, unless it's an older generation.

A lot of our younger community, you know, under 30, is really they live on TikTok. TikTok is their Google. It's their Yelp. It's there, you know, medical symptoms search.

And I think that it's a really great source for information that a lot of people turn to. And it's where we build a lot of community and gathering. It would be a shame to lose it.

PHILLIP: So, Ashley, a lot of politicians want to get in on this TikTok market. They are bringing influencers to Washington. The White House has brought influencers to Washington. You've been there, met President Biden.

Is it hypocritical to bring you in and then in the same breath talk about banning this app?

NSONWU: Absolutely. I've been invited by the White House to meet President Biden, to chat with Vice President Harris and to use my platform to talk about, you know, the many strides they've made in climate policies that, you know, arguably have created jobs. It has fueled economic growth.

But it's very interesting to me that by taking a platform away from people that people rely on for their livelihoods, that people rely on for income and opportunities that actually takes jobs away from people. It actually hurts the economy.

So it is very hypocritical. And it does not -- it kind of contradicts that -- that agenda, right, and that -- that those goals that they have to help American people out, you know? We're going to be affected by the loss of this app.

PHILLIP: Yeah, there's a lot of talk also -- I mean, this came up a little bit earlier -- the mental health concerns, the concerns about people going down rabbit holes of content, dangerous content.



PHILLIP: I mean, Ashley, you're a mom, you have a really little one and another one on the way, would you let your children when they're older use this app? NSONWU: I absolutely would. Yeah. I mean, I think there are ways to monitor it, and I also have a big supporter of finding ways to reform social media as a whole. You know, it's like I said, it's not unique to TikTok.

I think social media in general has an issue with mental health, body image issues, all of these things that I mentioned earlier. And so, I think efforts should be taken to try to solve those issues across the board, not just on TikTok, but on all the social media platforms.

And I absolutely would let my child used the app because I think it -- it's a great -- has a lot of value, right? You can use it to learn so much information about different topics. You can use it to find your people, find your communities and learn about different things that you're really interested in.

And so, because of that value, I think it outweighs these potential cons that they're talking about.


And, Hannah, before we go -- I mean, do you think that -- you've built this community around wage transparency, essentially -- would that have been possible?

WILLIAMS: No, oh, my gosh. No. I would not have been able to build my platform starting on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram. Just the reach that videos get on TikTok was a huge game changer for me.

The first day we posted our video, it went viral overnight. It got six million views within, like a week. Unheard of. I've still to this day. I have not seen that kind of traction on Instagram.

And I can tell you as a creator, if TikTok is banned, I don't see myself going to Instagram or Facebook as a solution. I'll wait for another app to replace TikTok or I'll go and wait on YouTube. But I'm not going to another option that hasn't changed. It doesn't change.

PHILLIP: All right. Thank you to both of you, Ashley Renne Nsonwu and Hannah Williams. Thanks for sharing all of that.

NSONWU: Thanks for having us.

WILLIAMS: Thanks for having us.

PHILLIP: And TikTok's huge around the world, but, ironically, not in China. The country has taken extreme measures to ban the app itself. It does have its own version, but it is completely different and you're going to see just how different that is, next.



PHILLIP: China is slamming the U.S. for considering a ban on TikTok. But it's worth pointing out that China doesn't even allow TikTok at home, but they've got instead is this heavily censored version of the app, and it's allowing Chinese state media to push some rather ironic and inflammatory messages about the United States.

CNN's Selina Wang offers a closer look.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pressure is building again in Washington to ban TikTok, all because it's owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance.

In China, TikTok is banned, in fact, it never existed. Instead there is a separate version of ByteDance's app in China, called Douyin. Boasting more than 600 million daily active users, Douyin was already a viral sensation in China before TikTok launched overseas.

So I've got TikTok pulled up on my U.S. phone and Douyin on this China phone. They've got very similar homepages and interfaces. The only reason why I can access TikTok here in Beijing is because this phone has got an overseas SIM card in it and a VPN to get around China's Internet firewall.

But Douyin has some more sophisticated features, especially in live streaming and e-commerce. And Douyin users under 14 can only use the app for 40 minutes a day and see kids safe content.

Plus, Douyin automatically puts on this heavy beauty filter when I opened up this camera function.

Media is heavily censored in China. So if I type in a topic sensitive to the Chinese government on Douyin, say, like Tiananmen 1989, nothing pops up, and I get a text that says no search results available. Versus on TikTok, you'll see that a bunch of videos pop up about the massacre.

One of Washington's concerns is that because of its Chinese ownership, Beijing could use its propaganda and censorship methods on TikTok, too.

The other fear is that TikTok could be forced to hand over data to the Chinese government. But security experts say the national security risks are hypothetical at best. Beijing says the U.S. government has been abusing power to suppress other countries' companies.

But the irony is that China has outright blocked countless foreign websites and apps, including Google, YouTube , Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Netflix and more.

On Douyin, Chinese state media has been sharing TikTok videos from angry Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Explain it to me, Joe. Why the sudden move to ban TikTok? Joe, if the Chinese want our data, they could just buy the data on the free market that we love so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden, I am 80 years old. I'm not a teenager. There are quite a few million people on TikTok who are not going to vote for you if you ban this app.

WANG: Meanwhile, nationalistic influencers on Douyin are accusing the U.S. government of using national security as an excuse to crack down on TikTok because of America's fears of China. But it remains to be seen if TikTok can convince Washington that it poses no threat.

Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


WANG (on camera): And, Abby, look, the U.S. may ultimately mandate a sale of TikTok. But experts say that's not in the cards because Beijing has ultimate approval over a sale. So China may actually prefer TikTok to get banned, then to fall into U.S. hands.

But the big question from all of this is whether TikTok is just the start. How far our lawmakers going to take this? How are they going to deal with other major Chinese owned apps in the U.S.?

I just went into the Apple App Store right under the section most downloaded free apps and you'll see that four out of the top 10 are owned by Chinese companies, including shopping app Temu, fashion app Shein and video cutting app CapCut, which is also owned by ByteDance.

So where is the U.S. going to draw the line and how much could geopolitics impact what the Internet landscape in America looks like in the future, Abby.

PHILLIP: All very important questions. Selina Wang, thank you very much for that fascinating report.


And when we come back, you've got questions and we have answers. The experts, we've brought in Facebook's former security chief, along with an adolescent psychiatrist to field your concerns out there about TikTok.


PHILLIP: We've heard from many of you with all sorts of questions about the impact that TikTok has on everything from our kids to national security. This is your chance to put the questions directly to the experts.

We have here, Dr Michael Birnbaum. He's an adolescent psychiatrist and medical researcher. And Alex Stamos, a cybersecurity expert and former security officer at Facebook and Yahoo.

So, thank you, gentlemen, for being here.

We've got a lot of really interesting questions. Our first one comes from JP. He's a student from Alexandria, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JP, STUDENT FROM ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA: Do they realize how easy it is for kids to access and appropriate content on TikTok? Why is it designed that way?


PHILLIP: Alex, that's a question coming from a kid himself, so he knows what he's talking about.



I mean, this is a problem with all of the social media companies that have large youth populations, is trying to separate out the kids from the adult content, which in some cases is explicitly allowed or allowed up to a certain limit is a real problem. We see it on Instagram. We see it on Twitter. We see it on Snapchat.

And so, I -- part of the problem is that we don't create communities just for kids, and there's been a debate of whether or not it would be better for these platforms to create special kid versions, which something that's been proposed but has that become possible (ph).

PHILLIP: And it's something that they do.


PHILLIP: The Chinese version of the app, as we just learned in a piece earlier in the show. They have for -- under 14 year olds. They can only watch kid videos for a limited amount of time.

STAMOS: Yeah. I mean, this is one of the interesting things that comes out of these discussions is China has different child safety laws. They also have much more aggressive privacy laws that we have the United States. So that Chinese data can't leave the country in the same way our data can leave and go to China.

PHILLIP: All right, and we have another related question. This is from Katy Szczepanik, a business operations manager from Peachtree Corners, Georgia.


KATY SZCZEPANIK, PARENT: I'm a parent of two teens and the only way I can limit the amount of time on TikTok is to take their phones, which is an inconvenience because it takes away our communication, and clearly for the teen who wants their phone. But how much time should a teen watch TikTok in a day?

One to two hours seems more than fair. But the teens are finding ways around all these parental controls. What can I do to limit the amount of time my teen is on TikTok?

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Yeah, what is fair? And I think the related question she's asking is how does this not become a wedge between parents and their kids?

DR. MICHAEL BIRNBAUM, RESEARCHER AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRIST, FEINSTEIN INSTITUTE: Yeah, and critically, it's important to know that time spent online is one factor, but there are still so many other factors to consider. When looking at social media and how our youth are using social media.

There is a highly complex relationship between social media and mental health. And in some ways, despite decades of research, we're still just beginning to answer those questions and to determine exactly what is the right amount of social media access for teenager. There is no current guidelines as far as what is too much, what is too little.

In many ways, it's dependent on the kid. It's dependent on the parents. And these are critical questions and important discussions that need to happen in home, with the family and finding ways to have open dialogue about what people are doing online, not just how much time they're on it, but exactly what they're doing when they are on it.

PHILLIP: This is definitely something that is a huge source of concern for the folks who have submitted questions.

We have another question from Enrique Oliva. He's a dad from Philadelphia.


ENRIQUE OLIVA, DAD: Why do we think banning TikTok will help teen mental health? There's so many apps out there with the same feature. Won't they just flock to another app with the same video shorts?


PHILLIP: I'll start with you. But I -- Alex, I see you nodding your head. Yeah.

BIRNBAUM: That's a great question. I don't -- I don't think that banning TikTok is going to improve youth mental health. The relationship between mental health and social media, TikTok or otherwise, is highly complex. There's a lot of data to suggest that there are some challenges associated with social media use. But there at the same time is a lot of data to suggest that there are some wonderful things that could happen on social media, and it could be a safe haven for some people, for some -- for other folks, it could be lifesaving.

PHILLIP: But is there anything, Alex, unique about TikTok's algorithm that makes it particularly addictive, particularly prone to people if they're in a dark place, going further down that dark hole?

STAMOS: There used to be, and now, it is less unique because the other companies have copied them. So one of the innovations that TikTok brought was this idea of kind of constant scrolling where they would bring content to you from people that you didn't meet, so that the idea pre-TikTok from most of these platforms, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook was the most important indicator of what you would see was who your friends, who you would follow.

And TikTok turned that upside down, of we're going to pull strangers who we think you're going to want to see their stuff. That being said this has completely changed how those products are built because TikTok was so successful.

So, now, Instagram, Snap, YouTube, all these products have TikTok like algorithmic feeds that are perhaps not just as good as TikTok. But they're getting there.


BIRNBAUM: But it's worth adding that there those algorithms can be used for good as well. And TikTok and other platforms can provide videos and information that's critical and important for mental health.

PHILLIP: Do you think parents should be concerned about how their kids' development is being affected by social media?

BIRNBAUM: Yes, I think parents should be concerned about the development of their children. And adolescence is a time of massive changes, both physically, emotionally and mentally, and it has to be part of the discussion.


It's a -- it's a -- it's a -- it's a -- it's drastically changed the way young people communicate and share and learn information. And that's true about all of us, but especially true for young people who have developing brains and bodies.

PHILLIP: All right. Dr. Michael Birnbaum and Alex Stamos, both of you, thank you very much.

And coming up in just a few minutes, Alisyn Camerota talks to parents of a Parkland shooting victim forcibly removed from a gun hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday after disrupting it. One of them arrested after being pinned to the ground. Tune in for that on "CNN TONIGHT".

We'll be right back.


PHILLIP: And thank you for joining us. You don't want to miss tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. when my colleague Jake Tapper explores the phenomenon that is Ted Lasso. His interview with Jason Sudeikis is tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

And you can join me and catch up on the latest politics on "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY". It airs at a new time starting this Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I hope to see you there. But for now, "CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota, it starts right now.