In response to the bipartisan attempt to ban the social media platform TikTok, Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman, who regularly uses TikTok, said the move was “xenophobic.” But is this true?
Representative Jamaal Bowman
False. Completely make believe.
The proposal to ban the popular social media platform has nothing to do with the Chinese population; there is nothing xenophobic about it.
The ban is actually the result of multiple national security concerns about the platform and its connections with the main adversary of the United States: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Chinese government has used the platform not only to collect information and data from the American people without their consent but can also be used to spread Chinese propaganda to impressionable American children and teenagers.
How is this possible? To begin, TikTok is owned by a parent company: Bytedance. In August 2021, the Chinese government acquired a 1% stake, which notably included a board position in Bytedance through the state-owned firm WangTouZhongWen technology. This deal allowed the Chinese government to appoint a board director with direct influence on critical business decisions made by the company.
China’s government also requires that all Chinese companies, upon its demand, turn over data to the authorities. This means that most of the data collected via the application—including the app’s location tracking ability, the locations, and the content imputed in the videos—can be accessed by the Chinese government. Fox put together a list of the main pieces of information TikTok collects. The list includes name, email, password, username, phone number, the content of messages, when they are sent, where they are sent, who reads them and where, purchase information, addresses, keystroke patterns, time zones, IP addresses, vacation spots, and more. The Fox article explains that though the information is stored in the U.S. and Singapore, it runs through servers in China, which is the main concern of Congressional members.
At a recent Congressional hearing, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified that TikTok has never given any U.S. data to the CCP. Should we believe this? In addition to the Chinese Communist Party having a stake in Bytedance and having access to servers that handle American data, the Chinese government also instituted a law in 2017 known as the “China’s National Intelligence Law.”
This law explains that any U.S. or other foreign citizens doing business in China must give the Chinese government any data it needs for ill-defined and open-ended “security risks.” This means that even if TikTok may not be giving the CCP American data now, at any moment and for any open-ended reason, the CCP can claim that there is a security risk and the company will have to give over the data of half of the American population whether it wants to or not. Roughly 150 million Americans have used Tik Tok and its largest audience is in the U.S., and it’s growing.
These are the reasons Congress is questioning the head of TikTok. It has nothing to do with xenophobia, Congressman Bowman. It’s because TikTok is a grave national security threat to the kids and younger generations of America.