The Chinese government and Communist Party now has a board seat at ByteDance, owners of the addictive social media app TikTok. As usual, there is no such thing as a private company in China that the CCP doesn’t have its fingerprints on, or will try to influence somehow. This is especially true with giant technology corporations like ByteDance.
The Trump administration tossed around the idea of banning TikTok from government phones, and then acted on it in 2019. TikTok was supposed to be banned from U.S. app stores later in 2020, but it is still available for download in the Google app store, for instance.
In April, Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) re-introduced legislation that would ban TikTok from those app stores once and for all. It’s gone nowhere since.
TikTok collects facial data and stores it on their servers. This facial data can then be used in research and development to make for better “big brother” surveillance and security software, thanks to this harvesting of free data.
For years, TikTok critics have said that the company keeps those images and uses it for other purposes, including the ability to sell it to third parties that make security and surveillance technology. In June, TikTok admitted to collecting this data and storing it. Facebook does the same. But Facebook is not headquartered in China, a country that Washington considers to be the biggest threat to American national security.
The simple fact that no major American social media company is allowed in mainland China should be enough of a reason to put Apple and Google on notice and remove the app from their stores. That TikTok is now one of the world’s number one social media apps is not due to the genius of ByteDance, but due to the fact that China has closed off its massive media market to foreign social media companies. This one-way street should be enough to put the lid on TikTok in the U.S., giving China a dose of its own medicine.
With the CCP now on the inside, ByteDance is a partner in whatever the Chinese government wants – including pumping out CCP propaganda on the pandemic, and other matters. Young users will be subject to CCP influence operations that look like simple American videos and commentary.
The Chinese government did more than just take a board seat. It also invested in the company, according to a report by the subscription-only tech publication The Information.
The board seat gives Beijing more insight into the inner workings of ByteDance, the world’s most valuable privately held tech company, which owns some of the most popular apps in China as well — Douyin and Toutiao.
The CCP now has one of the three seats on the company’s board, raising questions about how much influence Beijing will exert over TikTok as another government messaging tool.
“TikTok is a Trojan Horse for the Chinese Communist Party that has no place on government devices — or any American devices, for that matter,” Hawley said in a statement in April.
In June, the Biden Administration revoked Trump-era bans on TikTok and WeChat, which recently banned Chinese LGBT accounts and those from college students talking about feminism.
“The Biden Administration can no longer pretend that TikTok is not beholden to the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Rubio said on Tuesday after hearing about the CCP board position at ByteDance. “Even before today, it was clear that TikTok represented a serious threat to personal privacy and U.S. national security. Beijing’s aggressiveness makes clear that the regime sees TikTok as an extension of the party-state, and the U.S. needs to treat it that way. ”
Rubio said that the White House “must take immediate action to remove ByteDance and TikTok from the equation. U.S. partners such as India have already come to this conclusion, banning TikTok from their country last year. It is past time we acted on this threat as well.”