By U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has infiltrated America through an app: TikTok. Under the façade of a simple video-sharing platform, TikTok poses one of the greatest long-term threats to the health, safety, and privacy of millions of Americans.
TikTok attracts more than 150 million American users – nearly 45 percent of the U.S. population – and most notably, children as young as 13 years old. Like other social media platforms, users of all ages willingly relinquish their sensitive information—such as search histories, locations, messages, photos, videos, and more. TikTok is different because its parent company, ByteDance, is based in China, and the Chinese government could seize and exploit U.S. users’ data at any time. Numerous whistleblowers have confirmed CCP officials have access to this information, and it is readily available for blackmail or espionage. With control of the app and its sophisticated algorithm, the CCP can target and harass American users in its quest for intelligence, as well as to promote dangerous government propaganda or spread harmful ideas. It is no wonder three in five Americans believe TikTok poses a national security threat.
When logged in, all TikTok users are subject to an algorithm that hooks their interest with sensational content of the app’s choosing. While some of the content is benign, many children are fed a digital diet of content linked to dangerous behaviors, like eating disorders and self-harm. The algorithm also encourages users to create sexualized content under the guise it will attract digital stardom through views and likes. Furthermore, TikTok’s algorithm has promoted transgender creators who glorify irreversible gender transition procedures and offer minors advice on how to access dangerous hormone therapies without parental consent.
In the same way TikTok’s algorithm allows transgender creators to indoctrinate children, Chinese control of this algorithm has the potential to influence millions of Americans with content that promotes the CCP’s policy agenda, including anti-Taiwan sentiments. Topics considered “politically sensitive” by the CCP and China critics, like former-NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom, have been censored from the app. Unfortunately, given Chinese management and manipulation of the algorithm, this app has created an echo chamber of misinformation that goes unchallenged.
I shared these alarming violations of U.S. privacy and Chinese influence in a letter to FTC Commissioner Lina Khan and demanded the FTC share exactly how it is actively safeguarding user data, protecting our kids and grandkids, and ensuring the Chinese Communist Party does not use TikTok to manipulate America.
There is no question American values do not align with those of the Chinese Communist Party. U.S. failure to act could very well result in our own battle to correct the CCP propaganda spread by an app that is nothing more than a thinly-disguised indoctrination machine. It is time for this administration to take action against TikTok. The U.S. must send a strong message to China: your influence is not welcome here.