TikTok is 'one of the greatest threats to Americans’ health, privacy, and safety,' Sen Jim Risch says
By Elizabeth Elkind | July 31, 2023
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, is asking the Federal Trade Commission to reveal what steps it is taking to protect young social media users from both TikTok’s controversial data policies and the app’s ability to promote Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda.
Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan Monday, when he called the Beijing-backed social platform "the perfect storm for concern" when it comes to its effect on American children.
"China’s control of TikTok poses one of the greatest threats to Americans’ health, privacy, and safety. Our kids and grandkids are particularly vulnerable to falling under the manipulation of the Chinese Communist Party by consuming content featuring self-harm, eating disorders, and videos encouraging them to seek harmful gender transition procedures," Risch told Fox News Digital.
He outlined a series of questions for Khan and urged her "prompt response" by no later than Oct. 30. He asked how the FTC is protecting the data of minors and shielding them from video trends that have led to dangerous health effects for kids, and he wants information on how her agency is monitoring and preventing "the development of algorithms that directly promote CCP propaganda."
TikTok’s parent company Bytedance is headquartered in Beijing and has been accused of allowing itself to be used as a tool of the CCP. While executives for TikTok have repeatedly sworn under oath that the data of U.S. users is stored outside of China, a Forbes report revealed in June that some information was hosted within its borders.
"While almost every company collects various types of data, TikTok’s substantial size and the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to seize and exploit this data at any time creates the perfect storm for concern," Risch wrote in his letter.
The app has more than 150 million U.S. users, according to a TikTok press release, just under half the country’s population.
"TikTok is built like an indoctrination machine and its user base is comprised of one of the most impressionable and vulnerable populations: children," Risch said. "The nature of TikTok’s application and its content are tailor-made to appeal to younger generations."
A report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate released last year found that TikTok’s algorithms promoted harmful fad diets and content idealizing suicide, among other problematic topics.
"The company censors topics viewed by the CCP as politically sensitive, denying U.S. citizens access to full information," Risch wrote. "Even more worrisome, Bytedance employees in China and CCP officials have access to TikTok’s data, as we know from multiple whistleblowers."