‘Embarrassingly stupid’: Internet explodes over Republican’s ‘technologically illiterate’ questions at TikTok hearing

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee this Thursday, with the hearing focusing on members' concerns that the app has data privacy issues, potential harms for children, and connections to the Chinese government.

Some of the questions posed to Chew from lawmakers were slammed on social media as being technologically ignorant, one of which came from Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC).

"Mr, Chew, does TikTok access the home wifi network?" Hudson asked.

"Only if the user turns on the wifi," Chew replied. "I'm sorry, I may not understand the question."

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"So if I have the TikTok app on my phone and my phone is on my home wifi network, does TikTok access that network?" Hudson clarified.

"It would have to -- to access the network to get connections to the internet, if that's the question," Chew replied, seeming somewhat confused.

Hudson then asked if it's possible that TikTok could "access other devices on that home wifi network," to which Chew replied that the app doesn't do anything "that is beyond industry norms."

The line of questioning sparked a wave of mockery on Twitter, with some marveling at how baffling it is that "someone so technologically illiterate can be on a committee like this."

"We're veering into Satanic Panic levels with this TikTok obsession," tweeted @CahnEmily.

"Elected officials are the worst group of people to be conducting these because they don't have a clue, but every time this is how it works," tweeted @bschaeffer12. "It's such a circus."

"It's probably not great that the people deciding what platforms we do and don't get to use also don't seem to understand the basics of how the internet works," tweeted disinformation researcher Mike Rothschild.

"Meanwhile, our legislative body continues to demonstrate why they are so ineffective at legislating," tweeted YES! Magazine senior editor Chris Winters. "Seriously, does this guy not have any staff under 60 who can explain to him how the internet works? It's 2023."

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"Congress is worried about an app being watched via Wi-Fi. Definitely an important topic to take a deeper look into. WE MUST BAN WI-FI!" tweeted @AustinNull.

"This is a serious topic worthy of serious conversations," tweeted @jlemonsk. "A sitting member of congress asking if a smartphone app uses a home's wifi network to... access the internet while at home... ain't it."

"Anytime we have a congressional hearing on tech this is how it goes, just beat your head against the wall nonsense questions from reps who don't possess the most basic understanding of anything they're talking about. A waste of time," tweeted @yrfrenbren.

Lawmakers and government officials of all stripes have fretted that TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance could pass Americans' data to the government in Beijing and are calling for it to be removed from app stores or sold to a US firm.

Supporters argue that the platform is no more prone to data breaches than any other apps that collect personal information -- and that lawmakers should be working to firm up privacy laws rather than spoiling their fun.

TikTok itself has for years rejected its characterization as a threat, but tension between Washington and Beijing, exacerbated by the recent destruction of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, have spurred politicians to get tough.

The app -- which recently revealed it has 150 million US users -- is already outlawed on all federal government devices, but lawmakers and President Joe Biden are weighing an all-out nationwide ban.

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With additional reporting by AFP