Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) told Fox News that former President Donald Trump “was right” in his warnings about social media platform TikTok.
“TikTok is a enormous threat,” Warner said. “It’s a threat on two levels. One, it is a massive collector of information, oftentimes of our children. They can visualize even down to your keystrokes. So if you’re a parent and you’ve got a kid on TikTok, I would be very, very concerned. All of that data that your child is inputting and receiving is being stored somewhere in Beijing.”
“The second problem is that TikTok, in a sense, is a broadcasting network,” he said. “TikTok at the end of the day has to be reliant on the Communist Party. The China law states that. If they suddenly want to dial up the fact that we are going to decrease the content that criticizes Chinese leadership but increase the content that your kids may be seeing saying, ‘Hey, you know, Taiwan really is part of China,’ that is a distribution model that would make RT or Sputnik or some of the Russian propaganda models pale in comparison.”
In 2020, Trump issued executive orders aimed at TikTok and WeChat. The TikTok order cited the risk that China could track federal employees, conduct corporate espionage, censor politically sensitive content, and collect data to blackmail individuals. The order banned transactions with the social media platform, an effort that the Associated Press reported seemed aimed at blocking distribution of the apps in the U.S. With TikTok still available in the U.S., in 2021, President Joe Biden retracted the orders and ordered his administration to review and identify apps with “unacceptable risk” tied to foreign governments, CNBC reported. Negotiations are still ongoing over TikTok’s presence in the U.S.
In July this year, Warner and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) jointly called on Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to react to reports that individuals in China accessed U.S. user data, despite company officials’ claims that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t have access to American user data. They also cited Chinese national security laws that allow the party to force access to data.
“In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice,” the two senators wrote in a letter.
During a House Homeland Security hearing earlier this month, Representative Diana Harshbarger (R-TN-01) asked FBI Director Christopher Wray about investigations into the CCP and TikTok. Wray said information about investigations could be included in an upcoming classified briefing.
“There’s obviously limits on what I can share in terms of discussing a specific ongoing investigation,” he said, highlighting both a broad concern about harm to young people online, and also a threat from the Chinese government against companies.
“So that’s plenty of reason by itself to be extremely concerned,” Wray said.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mark Warner” by Senator Mark Warner. Photo “Donald Trump” by Trump White House Archived. Background Photo “TikTok” by solenfeyissa.