Transcript for ABC News Live: Lawmakers press TikTok CEO over data security, misinformation
[THEME MUSIC] - And good afternoon, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips. Today on ABC News Live, the CEO of TikTok grilled on Capitol Hill as the US weighs banning the app. What he told lawmakers about your privacy and protecting our children, plus TikTok's connections to the Chinese Communist Party.
The new urgent warning from the FAA, the agency's message to airline and airport workers after a series of troubling close calls. And growing concerns over contaminated eye drops. What the CDC is saying in response to user deaths, people going blind, some people even losing eyes.
But we do start with TikTok CEO getting grilled by lawmakers on the Hill, defending his app, TikTok, as Congress actually floats the idea of banning it. Lawmakers addressing security, spying, even suicide, as Shou Zi Chew tells Congress that his company is working to protect user data.
This comes as the popular app and its parent company, Chinese-owned ByteDance, are under intense scrutiny for its use and alleged abuse of user data. Our Jay O'Brien is on the Hill, taking it all in.
So Jay, what else have we learned so far as show Shou continues to be questioned by members of Congress today?
- Yeah, and I think the thing that, if you're at home, you need to understand about the concerns that lawmakers have and why we even got here to today is the fact that lawmakers who are concerned about TikTok say that all of their fears are rooted in the fact that TikTok is an app that's owned by ByteDance, which is a company that's headquartered in China.
And their fears, really, there are twofold. One is about data security, and the other is about misinformation, the idea that employees at TikTok could misuse user data, particularly employees who are in China, and also that the app could promote or downplay things that the Chinese government doesn't like.
Now, TikTok denies all of that, says it doesn't do any of that. No country has an influence on their algorithm, and things of that nature. But what we've heard from lawmakers today is that they are unconvinced about what TikTok has to say and their assurances that they don't misuse user data, that they don't promote misinformation.
I want to play you one exchange between TikTok CEO Shou Chew, and California Democratic representative Anna Eshoo that kind of highlights a little of what we've seen today.
- And you spoke in your opening statement about a firewall relative to the data, but the Chinese government has that data. How can you promise that will move into the United States of America and be protected here?
- Congresswoman, I have seen no evidence that the Chinese government has access to that data. They have never asked us. We have not provided.
ANNA ESHOO: Well, you know what?
- I have asked that--
- I find that actually preposterous.
SHOU ZI CHEW: I have looked, and I have seen no evidence of this happening.
- So TikTok says as it relates to data that they've walled off new US user data on Oracle servers-- the company Oracle's servers in Texas. They call it Project Texas. But there's still older US user data that's on servers overseas.
All of that, by the way, hasn't convinced lawmakers that there could not be some kind of access, if the Chinese government wants it, to US user data. Again, we've heard bipartisan echoes from lawmakers saying they are just not convinced with what the TikTok CEO had to say.
- And now we're finally hearing from China, right? Since early this morning, when the testimony started, we didn't really know how China was responding to what was going across the airwaves. What exactly is being said?
- Well, we got a statement from the Minister of Commerce in China. I want to show it to you a little bit on your screen here and unpack what it has to say.
Firstly, they said that China would oppose any forced sale of TikTok, meaning taking TikTok away from ByteDance, that company headquartered in China, and selling it to an American company. If the news is true, China will resolutely oppose. A sale would seriously damage investors from multiple countries, including China. That's part of the statement from the Minister of Commerce there.
But the other thing we've seen in relation to that statement is lawmakers turn to that statement in this hearing today and say to TikTok CEO, you say that you don't have a connection to China, that you're a privately-owned company. But here is a ministry of government in China putting out a statement about your potential for sale.
And they're using that to say to TikTok CEO that they do not believe that there is a severed relationship, as TikTok claims, again, between the Chinese government and ByteDance, which is TikTok's parent company.
- So TikTokers and influencers, many of whom you've spoken to there on the Hill, also paying attention to this hearing, sticking to their free speech argument. But there's also a discussion going on among lawmakers with regard to that, as well. What have they been telling you?
- Well, there is this full-force lobbying effort on TikTok's part to try to convince lawmakers that TikTok is safe, to try to save it from a potential ban. Influencers are here on Capitol Hill talking to lawmakers, saying that this app has changed their lives, helped them grow their small business.
TikTok has hired a communications firm with deep ties to the Biden administration to try to lobby their case here on Capitol Hill, but nonetheless, the lawmakers that we've talked to have said that they are unconvinced.
We caught up with some yesterday before this hearing, and we asked them, is there anything you could hear from Shou Chew, from the TikTok CEO, that might change your mind. Here's a little bit of what they told us.
- [INAUDIBLE] find another job.
- Yeah, that he's going to sell.
- I'm going to entrust my-- I'm going to trust the American intelligence community a lot more I'm going to trust the CEO.
- I have watched the Wednesday dance more times than I can count. I have watched people do magic tricks. I've watched people do interviews. I've watched food being made. None of that is a threat to this country. We are stronger than the Wednesday dance. And yet, most members would never know that because they've never been there.
- So to unpack a little of what you just heard, you just heard from three members of Congress, a Republican, a Democrat, and a Republican, saying that they still have concerns about TikTok. That first soundbite is Troy Nehls. I asked him, what does he say to those influencers who say that banning TikTok would take away their livelihood? He said, get another job.
And then at the tail end of that, TikTok does have some allies here on Capitol Hill, and that was one saying that banning TikTok would have been tantamount to, essentially, violating elements of free speech. So there is this ongoing debate on Capitol Hill.
But one of the things we're seeing emerge from this hearing is bipartisan agreement from a lot of lawmakers that they have significant concerns about TikTok and not much that the CEO has said today that has put those concerns to bed, Kyra.
- So the Justice Department is also investigating TikTok for possible surveillance on American journalists on the app. What more have you learned about this?
- So this a lot of this ties back to the case of Forbes journalists who say that TikTok surveilled them and used their TikToks to essentially find their location, get their IP address, and see if they had met with ByteDance employees over the course of their reporting.
That is something we know, according to sources, that the Department of Justice is looking into. And it's something this committee made repeated mention of today in the broader theme of pushing TikTok to assure them that they don't misuse US user data.
Now, TikTok has essentially said that this is a one-off, that the employees who did this were disciplined, and they don't do this writ large. But I keep coming back to this theme because this is the central theme from this hearing, which is lawmakers saying they were unconvinced by those arguments as well.
And the question then becomes, if you have a number of lawmakers who were not put at ease because of what they heard from the TikTok CEO today, what does that look like here on Capitol Hill going forward? We know there is legislation to ban TikTok outright.
We also know there's legislation designed to make it easier for the Biden administration to further regulate TikTok. Both of those moving through here on Capitol Hill. One already cleared the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and we'll see which one picks up support. But certainly, bipartisan interest in this issue.
- OK. Jay O'Brien up on the Hill, we'll keep listening and keep checking in. Thanks so much. And at the White House, President Biden marking the 13th anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The President helped pass the law while serving as vice president, calling it a major milestone in the administration's efforts to bring down health care and drug costs. President Biden even joking today that this is also the anniversary of the most famous hot mic moment, when he actually let a bad word slip out while talking about it becoming law.
- Many of you joined us that day, after fighting for decades to make it happen. And I remember three words I used at the time. I thought it was--
I thought it was a big deal. And I stand by the fact it was a big deal.
- ABC News White House correspondent Karen Travers joining me now. So Karen, what is President Biden saying about the last 13 years of Obamacare, as far as what the law has accomplished so far?
- Yeah, Kyra. The president said today that health care-- affordable health care is a right and not a privilege just for wealthy Americans in this country. And he says that over the last 13 years, under the Affordable Care Act, despite many, many attempts by Republicans in Congress to scale it back or gut it entirely, 40 million Americans have been able to get affordable health care plans.
He says that people have been able to get cancer screenings and mental health care coverage that they were not able to get before 2010. And perhaps the big thing that many Americans know from the Affordable Care Act, people with preexisting conditions can now sign up for health care coverage that they might have been denied before Obamacare.
- So this is all, of course, playing into potential election and the president's bid, with the 2024 race right around the corner. So let's just talk about health care, this specific talking point. How important is it for the president right now? Is this a part of what he hopes will gain him more momentum?
- Yeah. I think we're going to see him talking about this issue a lot as he gears up to that potential re-election announcement. And Kyra, it's an issue he talks about a lot on the road right now because it is something that is so important to Americans.
And so for the president today, it was not just reflecting on what the Affordable Care Act has done, but what he has done in two years in office to build on the work of Obamacare, talking about the American Rescue Plan, that COVID relief bill, and Medicare and Medicaid, things that were included in that.
The Inflation Reduction Act and what that has done and will continue to do to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for American seniors and for millions of Americans. So this very much sounded like a campaign-style speech. You notice that he was hugging some babies there in the room afterwards.
This was at the White House, but this is certainly the type of message and style of speech that the president could be giving out on the road across the country in the coming weeks, if and when we get that announcement from him.
- All right. Well, President Biden also took the opportunity to talk about the health care proposals made by Republican opponents as well.
- He did. And the White House has this opening here. We heard from the president. He said, you know, Republicans have not put out their numbers of their budget, and until they do, we can think about the things that they're going to cut. Here's what he had to say about Republicans' plans.
- Folks, our MAGA Republican friends-- and by the way, I want to be clear. There are some good, decent Republicans out there. I'm not suggesting this is all about bad Republicans. But this new crowd is not your-- this ain't your father's Republican Party.
They may have forgotten all I just said, but I haven't. You haven't. All Americans deserve a peace of mind that if an illness strikes or an accident occurs, you can get the care you need.
- And the White House, because Republicans have not yet put out their budget numbers and the president has, they do see this as an opening-- a political opening, fairly or unfairly, to say, well, all of these things might be on the table.
That under some of the things that some Republicans have talked about, it could scale back health care plans. It could bring about significant cuts to Medicare. And, you know, House Republicans do want to see significant spending cuts as part of this budget process.
And the president, Kyra, continues to hammer them on this issue. And for now, until they put up what the president says he wants to see, he's going to continue doing that.
- All right, you know I've got to have a little fun because now you have a little bit of background on our little buddy Hodge.
- The son of Congressman Jimmy Gomez. He became a friend of the show when he brought his son to work during the chaotic votes in that late night session for Speaker a while back. Well, he's back again, making another appearance, Karen. Probably the most famous baby on the Hill right now.
KAREN TRAVERS: And it's a perfect image there for the president to show the importance of families having health care, the importance of child care. Obviously not knowing the circumstances of why he was brought to the event today, but, I mean, talk about the president being able to use a campaign moment there. Kissing babies, hugging babies.
But that's another part of all of this. Not just health care, but trying to build on the work that the president says they have been doing over the past two years to expand paid family leave, medical leave, and also child care. This is part of the budget that the president talked about in his remarks today, the budget that's still a wish list.
It's not really going to end up going anywhere. It's not something he would end up signing. But it's a policy priorities for the president that he can take out there on the road and say to Americans, here's what we're looking to do. Here's what we want to see Congress meet us in the middle on.
- Well, and you hit it right there. It's Congressman Gomez that is involved with the child care issue, hoping that he and other members of his daddy caucus can come together and talk about that this election year. Karen Travers, it's always a great moment to see a baby at an event. It lightens your heart.
- Yes. All right, thank you, Karen. Well, the FAA is issuing a new warning to pilots and airlines to pay attention and focus on the job. The sharp reminder comes after at least seven close calls at American airports. Trevor Ault tells us more now about this critical guideline for flight crews now.
TREVOR AULT: The FAA with a new alert, urging continued vigilance from all airline and airport employees. That sharp reminder coming on the heels of at least seven close calls at American airports, including one at New York's JFK Airport where a Delta pilot had to slam on the brakes after an American Airlines plane crossed the runway.
TOWER: Delta 1943, cancel takeoff plans.
PILOT: Rejecting. All right there, and, uh, whew.
TREVOR AULT: The FAA's alert reinforces several simple but critical guidelines for flight crews, reminding pilots to avoid personal conversations in the cockpit and asking they be especially aware while taxiing and crossing active runways, ensuring the runway is completely clear before entering for takeoff.
- We're not perfect as humans, and we have built systems in to anticipate people are going to make these mistakes, but to stop them before the aircraft actually taxis in front of another. We need to redouble those efforts.
TREVOR AULT: The safety alert comes just days after this slew of airport incidents prompted an emergency FAA safety summit. And President Biden had nominated Phil Washington, the CEO of Denver International Airport, to be the new head of the FAA, but his confirmation has been put on hold indefinitely as Republicans and independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema have been critical of his track record and specifically what they say is a lack of experience. Kyra.
- All right, Trevor Ault. Thank you so much. More than 10 eye drop brands have been yanked from the shelves after multiple people have been infected by a drug resistant bacterium. And take a look at what has happened.
Multiple reported cases of vision loss. Four people reportedly had to have their eyeballs surgically removed. And get this, three deaths now linked to these eye drops as well. According to the CDC, most cases are linked to EzriCare and Delsam Pharma eye drops, made by an India-based Global Pharma Healthcare.
Our medical contributor and physician at Stanford Children's Health, Dr. Alok Patel joining us now. First, let me ask you, how common are these eye drops? I wear contact lenses. I have glasses. I have all kinds of drops, and I'm not familiar with these brands. Can you give us more details about them?
- Well, Kyra, I'm right there with you. I have eye drops basically in every room of our house and in my go bag as well. There's a lot of different eye drop brands out there. Delsam is a pretty popular brand. I personally haven't seen EzriCare.
But that's why it's important for people, if they're getting eye drops that they aren't familiar with, eye drops, especially if you're traveling abroad or you're borrowing a friend's eye drops, which we don't recommend, that you are closely following safety guidance. You're following the expiration date.
And potentially, especially right now, you're looking online to make sure those eye drops are safe. And when in doubt, you are chatting with an eye doctor, such as an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, because this bacteria that scientists have seen, that the CDC is reporting, is a potentially, as we've seen, deadly and very dangerous bug.
- Right. I mean, we're talking about at least four people now needing their eyeballs actually surgically removed. So what's your reaction to just how far this has gone? And what do people need to know right now that maybe, looking at the fact that they've used these drops, they don't feel anything yet or have had any issues, but they see that they have those drops?
- Well, Kyra, my first reaction is similar to everyone else who's following this story, and that's just of shock and heartbreak for who has had to suffer the consequences here, and the fact that we just need really tight oversight on the types of consumer products that we're getting in the country. And hopefully there's a little bit more awareness out there for some of the symptoms that may come in contact with this.
Now, one really small detail that is potentially alarming is that this bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is a common bacteria in a health care setting. We see about 30,000 cases a year. But this specific strain that is resistant to some antibiotics, this is the first time, according to the CDC, we've seen it in the United States.
So for anyone out there who is taking an eye drop, or for anything related to your eye, if you're experiencing things such as pain, you see oozing or liquids coming out of your eye, or you feel like something is in your eye, nothing is, it's really important you seek medical care sooner rather than later. It could literally mean the difference of your eyesight versus losing it.
- Got it. So this isn't just rewetting drops that we're talking about. This is an antibiotic drop? I guess I'm confused at the type of drop that we're talking about. I've heard a little of everything.
- So with the reports we're seeing right now, these are mostly referring to artificial tears. Now, those are the jobs that are really popular in commercials, you can get over the counter. Things such as drops you would use for lubricating, redness, or just some basic eye irritation.
But Kyra, you're right. There's a huge spectrum of eye drops you can buy, such as antibiotic drops, dilating drops, numbness drops for procedures, even anti-allergy drops. And same rules apply, in terms of following safety guidance and making sure that you are reading the back of those labels, you're properly storing them, and you're tossing them out if they've been left open for a certain point of time, when bacteria can start to grow in those drops.
- OK, got it. Thanks, Doc. All right, let's pivot to this extreme case of strep throat now in Michigan, where a seven-year-old boy actually lost both his legs due to the infection. What more do we know about this severe case of strep throat spreading to other parts of the body and throughout the US?
- It's horrifying to see these stories, Kyra. Now, we want to be realistic here. Invasive group A strep infections are still rare. Group A infections are extremely common. We see millions of them every single year, causing-- in conditions such as cellulitis or skin infections and strep throat.
When it gets to a severe place is when the bacteria goes from a place that usually is, such as in our mouth or skin, to somewhere else, like lungs, bone, kidneys, and deep tissue. Now unfortunately the stories we're seeing of some of these children who are losing limbs or potentially worse are from conditions where group A strep becomes invasive.
You see things like toxic shock or necrotizing fasciitis, which is sometimes called flesh-eating disease. And even though these are rare, this is why it's important for any parents out there to pay close attention to their child's symptoms. And if you notice symptoms that don't seem like they're a common cold or flu, such as muscle aches, chills, or altered mental status, it's important that you seek medical care right away.
- Great tips, Dr. Patel. Thanks, Alok.
- Thank you.
- Other headlines we're following this hour, the parents of a Michigan teen who killed four classmates will now stand trial for involuntary manslaughter. A state appeals court ruling said that shooting at Oxford High School would not have happened if Ethan Crumbley's parents didn't buy him a gun and take him to class that day.
Crumbley pleaded guilty to murder and terror charges and is serving life in prison. Attorneys for his parents say they couldn't have foreseen the school shooting, and that their mistakes don't amount to manslaughter.
A grand jury weighing potential charges against former president Trump will not meet for the rest of the week. Prosecutors in New York City have presented their case on Trump's role in that hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels just ahead of the 2016 election. Sources telling us now the grand jury is expected to reconvene on Monday, at which time at least one additional witness may be called to testify.
So glad you're streaming with us. I'm Kyra Phillips. You can always find us on Hulu, the ABC News app, and, of course, on abcnews.com. The news never stops.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.