Once again, the Chinese app TikTok is in the eye of the storm after being denounced as a tool of espionage of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and data theft. Now the Chinese social network is labeled as the “digital fentanyl.” Republican Brendan Carr, a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FFC) and other lawmakers, warned that the application also serves as an indoctrination tool for young people.
“At the end of the day, TikTok is China’s digital fentanyl. Many people look at TikTok and think it’s just a fun application for sharing a dance or other funny videos. But that’s just the sheep’s clothing. Underneath of it operates as a very sophisticated surveillance app, and it’s not the videos, but it’s pulling everything from search and browsing history, potentially keystroke patterns, biometrics, including face prints, invoice prints,” Carr said.
Carr also warned that several reports reveal that TikTok’s Chinese parent company, Byte Dance, is attempting to surveil specific U.S. citizens through the app.
The commissioner also explained that the TikTok application, through its parent company Byte Dance, shows totally different content in China.
In contrast, in the U.S., TikTok content is targeted at specific groups of people with malicious motives, and he pointed out, as an example, the viral “blackout challenge” aimed at young people. The macabre game resulted in the death of a young girl in the United States.
“This was alleged in a court case, and [a 10-year-old] girl ended up strangling herself to death. So we’re seeing very different content,” Carr said.
However, Carr also commented that the Biden administration is looking for ways to restrict the app, although the measures are not enough, as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is working to counter any restrictions and allow TikTok to continue operating in the United States, with national security precautions, rather than eradicating it from the country.
According to Carr, lawmakers are so distrustful of TikTok that they use the app from burner phones and devices located outside federal offices.
I don’t see a path forward technically where we can assure ourselves that the data isn’t going to flow back to China and similarly that they’re not going to use the algorithm for foreign influence campaigns here,” he said.
In addition, allegations of CCP spying through TikTok have come from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark R. Warner, Democrat, Republican Vice Chairman Marco Rubio, and Republican Representative Mike Gallagher.
In that regard, lawmakers are attempting to effectively ban TikTok from the United States, citing that the popularity of the social networking app could give the CCP the ability to “subtly indoctrinate American citizens” and collect information about users.
The representatives also alleged that TikTok poses a “major threat to the national security of the United States.”
“Unless TikTok and its algorithm can be separated from Beijing, use of the app in the United States will continue to jeopardize the security of our country and pave the way for a China-influenced tech landscape here,”
added the legislators.
TikTok accused of misinforming and deterring young people
A NewsGuard report found that nearly 1 in 5 videos automatically suggested by TikTok’s platform contained misinformation.
Steven Brill, the founder of NewsGuard, says the amount of misinformation and the ease with which it can be accessed is worrying, considering the app’s popularity, especially among young people.
Brill questioned whether ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, is doing enough to stop the misinformation and suggested that it may be deliberately proliferating misinformation to generate confusion in the U.S. and other Western democracies.
Moreover, researchers discovered that TikTok’s search tool appears designed to direct users to false claims.
Several countries are taking security measures against the social network, denouncing it as an espionage tool of the CCP and because of its harmful content for young people.
TikTok accused of illegally processing children’s data
Last September, Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) accused Chinese social networking company TikTok of failing to protect the privacy of children under 13 who use the app. In addition, it said the company processed “special category data” without providing a legal justification.
As a result, the Chinese company TikTok could face a fine of $29 million.
The agency said the “special category data” included ethnicity, race, political opinions, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation.
The complaint to TikTok also notes that the platform provides non-transparent information. The legal document covers the period from May 2018 to July 2020.
This complaint comes as the British government works on an internet safety bill, which requires technology companies to protect children from accessing potentially harmful content.
The CCP, through TikTok, is doing a thorough job with young people and children to indoctrinate them using confusion, deception, and spreading harmful content, which can even cause danger to their lives. Are we willing to allow our children to continue being part of the social network of the Chinese communist regime?