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Sen. Warner on TikTok: Their 1st loyalty has to be to Communist Party

Many lawmakers now consider this China-owned technology an urgent national security threat.
Posted at 7:35 PM, Mar 22, 2023

For decades, threats to the country’s security were measured in stockpiles of weapons and fleets of tanks and airplanes — but now the battlefield of the digital age has expanded to include popular apps like TikTok.   

It started as a fun platform for sharing entertaining content. But today many see this app as one of China’s newest weapons. 

Virginia Senator Mark Warner is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He agreed to talk to Scripps News about his concerns that TikTok is targeting the personal data of an estimated 150 million American TikTok users every day, with all of it ending up in the hands of TikTok’s Beijing-based owner, ByteDance. 

"Every Chinese company, and Bytedance, is controlled by Chinese interests," Warner said. "So they have to turn over information whenever requested to the Chinese government. So at the end of the day, TikTok, ByteDance — their first loyalty has to be to the [Chinese] Communist Party."

Mining data is the norm for social media companies, but the question that consumes Sen. Warner is to what extent TikTok’s data is being used by the Chinese government to try to track and influence Americans — even spy on them. 

"We saw journalists literally being tracked because of their TikTok use. We saw the potential for this to be used as a propaganda tool," Warner said. "I’m not saying they’re doing it right now but I am saying at any moment the Communist Party could say, 'Well, we want to make sure that TikTok users only see videos that are negative about Taiwan or negative about America.'"

With so many American users spending an estimated 90 minutes on TikTok each day, Senator Warner understands not everyone wants to see the app go. 

For now, he told us he’ll continue to focus on the latest concerns about TikTok, but then he wants Washington to quickly pivot its attention to preparing for what other foreign technologies may be coming into American’s homes next.

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