by Judith Bergman at gatestoneinstitute.org
The United States recently banned TikTok from all federal government devices over growing security concerns. That is a good start.
TikTok, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned at the beginning of December, is controlled by the Chinese government, which is a national security concern.
TikTok, a video-sharing app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has, according to TikTok’s own estimates, 1 billion users worldwide. In 2021, TikTok had approximately 87 million users in the US, according to Statista. Disturbingly, a recent study found that 10% of US adults get their news from the Chinese app, up from 3% in 2020.
Wray said that China’s government can control the app’s recommendation algorithm, “which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.”
“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States. That should concern us,” Wray said in a speech at the University of Michigan.
Wray’s comments echoed those he made at the “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland” hearing held at the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee on November 15.
“We do have national security concerns at least from the FBI’s end about TikTok,” Wray stated.
“They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users. Or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so chose. Or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices.”
Wray’s concerns are not new — actually, they come a bit late. In 2020, President Donald J. Trump, citing similar security concerns, tried to ban the app in the US, in addition to sanctioning the company, but several federal judges ruled against both sanctions and a ban, blocking his attempts. One judge ruled that the ban failed “to adequately consider an obvious and reasonable alternative before banning TikTok” and that the ban was “arbitrary and capricious.”