On January 31, 2024, the US Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on child safety and online platforms, where the CEOs of five major tech companies testified: Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Shou Zi Chew of TikTok, Jack Dorsey of X, Evan Spiegel of Snap, and Jason Citron of Discord.
The hearing was supposed to focus on the harms and risks that social media pose to children, such as cyberbullying, sexual exploitation, addiction, and mental health issues. However, the hearing also touched on other topics, such as data privacy, content moderation, misinformation, and foreign influence.
One of the most controversial moments of the hearing was when Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, grilled Chew, the Singaporean CEO of TikTok, about his nationality and his possible ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that has faced scrutiny and suspicion from the US government over its data security and political influence.
Cotton repeatedly asked Chew about his citizenship, his affiliation with the CCP, and his loyalty to the US. Chew, who appeared visibly confused and annoyed, answered that he was a Singaporean citizen, that he had never been a member or associated with the CCP, and that he was committed to protecting the interests and values of the US and its users.
The exchange between Cotton and Chew sparked a lot of reactions from netizens, especially from Singaporeans, who took to social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit to express their opinions and feelings.
Many netizens criticized and mocked Cotton for his ignorant and racist questions, and praised and defended Chew for his calm and professional responses. They pointed out the differences and distinctions between Singapore and China, such as their political systems, cultures, and languages, and explained that being ethnically Chinese does not mean being loyal or affiliated to the CCP.
Some netizens also compared and contrasted the US and Singapore, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of both countries, such as their democracy, diversity, education, and economy. They also discussed the implications and consequences of the US-China rivalry and the US-Singapore relations, especially in the fields of technology, trade, and security.
Some netizens also expressed their sympathy and solidarity with Chew, and shared their own experiences and stories of facing discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes because of their nationality, ethnicity, or appearance. They also celebrated and appreciated the achievements and contributions of Chew and other Singaporeans in the global arena, and encouraged and inspired each other to pursue their dreams and goals.
The hearing on child safety and online platforms, where the Singaporean CEO of TikTok was grilled by a US senator about his China link, generated a lot of buzz and feedback from netizens, especially from Singaporeans. The netizens bemoaned the senator’s ignorant and racist questions, and lauded the CEO’s calm and professional answers.
The netizens also discussed the differences and distinctions between Singapore and China, the US and Singapore, and the US and China, and the implications and consequences of their relations and rivalry. The netizens also showed their sympathy and solidarity with the CEO, and their pride and admiration for Singapore and its people.