Senators Warner, Rubio say Beijing could interfere with what’s trending on TikTok

The two heads of the US Senate Committee on Intelligence believe that Beijing is influencing what’s trending on TikTok, providing a new argument for curbing the Chinese-owned social media platform. as momentum builds among US lawmakers for an outright ban on the app.

“The truth is, the algorithms that determine what you see on TikTok are determined from Beijing in China,” Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) admitted to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday night.

Warner points out what the videos are trending in different locations. “If you look at what Chinese kids see on their version of TikTok, which promotes science and engineering, compared to what our kids and kids around the world see, it’s very different,” Warner said. . ByteDance, the owners of TikTok, offers a similar short video and livestreaming app in China called Douyin.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who joined Warner on CBS, argued that TikTok has the data of “millions and millions of Americans,” which could give Chinese officials “the advantage of being able to shape American public opinion in times of crisis, ” and the ability to “steer its conversation. country in any direction they want.”

The senator’s office did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment made outside US business hours.

They are Warner and Rubio echoing concerns from US national security officials about Beijing’s alleged control of ByteDance’s recommendation algorithms. Last December, FBI director Christopher Wray expressed concern that Beijing’s influence on TikTok’s trends would allow them to “manipulate the content, and if they want, use it for influence operations.”

TikTok is currently in the middle of negotiations with US officials on how to reorganize its business to alleviate national security concerns.

“As Senators Warner and Rubio have explained, they are not familiar with the technical aspects of our comprehensive proposal to address their national security concerns about data security and foreign influence on TikTok,” said the a TikTok spokesperson. good luck, maintained that the company is “off to a good start” in implementing these changes.

“We are ready to inform the Senators and their staff of our efforts to date and our further commitments,” the spokesperson said.

Control and censorship

US concerns about TikTok have focused on its owner ByteDance, and in particular, the ease with which Chinese officials can trust the Chinese technology company to share personal data with the US.

In 2021, the Chinese government took a small stake of ByteDance’s China-based subsidiary, which also gives it the right to appoint one of its board members. Beijing is increasingly pursuing these so-called golden parts of Chinese technology companies to expand its management of the country’s major technology companies.

Chinese video platforms must be blocked by content authorities considered harmfulwhich can range from content shaming the Chinese Communist Party to videos promoting excessive wealth or wasteful activities.

On January 24, Beijing Office has partnered that it has started a month-long campaign to suppress unwanted content, ostensibly to promote a “healthy, happy and peaceful” internet after the Lunar New Year. The next day, ByteDance announced that it would subsidize influencers creating traditional Chinese content.

Will TikTok get banned?

The US banned TikTok on devices issued by the federal government as part of an omnibus bill in December. Nearly 30 US states have also banned social media apps from government devices, led by some public universities. block the app on the campus internet network.

However some in the US Congress want to go ahead and maintain a national ban on the social media app. Last week, Representative Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), who chairs the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, promised that the committee vote in a country banning TikTok next month.

The US intelligence community may be divided on the value of banning TikTok, across the country or on government devices. According to the report from Al Jazeera, Connecticut officials are delaying a possible ban on TikTok after FBI contacts said they “didn’t see evidence” of any new information being shared by the social media company, and that other restrictions on state is based “on news reports and other open source information about China in general, not specifically on TikTok.

the Wall Street Journal reports that TikTok is going through a reorganization asking the US tech company Oracle that it will house all of its systems for serving US content, and that it will create a subsidiary dedicated to US data security, accountable to an outside board of directors that will report to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, than ByteDance.

However, those plans may not be enough for US lawmakers who are skeptical of any proposal that leaves ByteDance in charge. “It’s almost impossible for any Chinese company to comply with Chinese law and our expectations in this country,” Rubio said in CBS.

“I don’t know how our national security interests and the operation of TikTok in this country, as long as it is owned by ByteDance, can coexist,” he continued.

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