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Is TikTok a threat to national security?

Is the Chinese-based social media phenomenon a risk to U.S. citizens?

Image via TikTok

TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social media apps with an estimated one billion monthly active users. Now a growing number of U.S. Officials and Tech CEOs have raised concerns over the Chinese-owned video platform’s stronghold on America’s youth, as well as having access to personal data of U.S. citizens.

TikTok has two main feeds: “Following” which delivers users videos from creators they’ve chosen to follow and “For You,” the main page showing a never-ending batch of video content the TikTok algorithm has tailor made for each user. The more videos a user watches on the platform, the more curated the feed will become.

According to Comscore, the highest share of users on TikTok are within the 10-19 age group at 32.5 percent. Many critics believe that TikTok’s incredibly addictive nature could be the perfect tool for China to corrupt impressionable minds.

This fear may stem from Russia’s use of Facebook to sow political division during the 2016 presidential election. According to The New York Times, Facebook told Congress that the shadow Russian company, Internet Research Agency “had posted roughly 80,000 pieces of divisive content that was shown to about 29 million people between January 2015 and August 2017.”

Others believe China could use the platform to spy on U.S. citizens. At the 2022 Code Conference, podcast host and author Scott Galloway said, “TikTok should be banned in every democracy” and that “it is, of course, a tool of espionage.”

Despite TikTok dismissing privacy concerns by assuring U.S. data is stored in the U.S. and not China where its parents company, ByteDance, is located, BuzzFeed News obtained leaked audio from 80 internal meetings that showed employees in China had accessed data about U.S. TikTok users.

“The recordings, which were reviewed by BuzzFeed News, contain 14 statements from nine different TikTok employees indicating that engineers in China had access to U.S. data between September 2021 and January 2022, at the very least.”

Emily Baker-White, BuzzFeed

An anonymous employee of TikTok’s Trust and Safety Department said in a September 2021 meeting that “everything is seen in China.”

Right now, TikTok is a safe place for users to enjoy a wide variety of video content, but that doesn’t mean that the platform is immune from future security risks.

About the author

Julien Perez