Speaking to the United States Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed “grave” concern about China’s ability to “weaponise” data on American TikTok users, cyberscoop (Opens in a new tab) I reported earlier this week.
TikTok is currently one of the most popular apps Social media platforms in the world, allowing users to create short videos (about 15 seconds long) on any topic.
However, TikTok is built and owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, and this is a problem for US authorities, especially given the Chinese government’s control over the data produced by local companies. According to Chinese law, the government can force a company to turn over any data it has on its servers.
The company tried to appease the US government Transfer user data to Oracle servers (Opens in a new tab) Stored in the country last June, but a BuzzFeedNews Report (Opens in a new tab) Published shortly after claiming that all of this data is still visible in China.
During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Wray said the inclusion of ByteDance APIs in TikTok is a national security concern. According to him, Beijing can use it to “control the data collection of millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which can be used for influence operations.”
In other words, China could seek to sow division by influencing how American TikTok users view certain events and issues.
Social media companies are no strangers to influencer operations. back in 2014, Facebook has started adjusting its algorithm (Opens in a new tab) To display only specific types of posts to its users. Hence, it has been accused of manipulating its users on an emotional basis.
Ray went on to say that Chinese companies can pose glaring security risks, as they “do whatever the Chinese government wants to do in terms of sharing information or serving as a tool of the Chinese government.” […] That’s a lot of reason in itself to be very concerned.”
While US lawmakers haven’t stopped short of a ban just yet, TikTok remains incredibly popular, displacing Facebook, Instagram and Twitter among younger users, and it’s unlikely that they would walk away from the platform without having to find an alternative.
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