FCC commissioner Brendan Carr is calling for the Council on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) to ban TikTok, the popular social media service owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.
Carr marked TikTok a “growing national security concern” in a conversation with Axios on Tuesday.
“It’s the strongest language Carr has used to date to urge action on TikTok. With more than 200 million downloads in the U.S. alone, the popular app is becoming a form of critical information infrastructure — making the app’s ownership by a Chinese parent company a target of growing national security concern,” the outlet reports.
Carr disputes TikTok’s assertion that China does not have access to U.S. user data on behalf of ByteDance.
“There simply isn’t a world in which you could come up with sufficient protection on the data that you could have sufficient confidence that it’s not finding its way back into the hands of the [Chinese Communist Party],” Carr argues.
“Carr highlighted concerns about U.S. data flowing back to China and the risk of a state actor using TikTok to covertly influence political processes in the United States,” the report adds.
Leaked documents validate Carr’s skepticism. In June, BuzzFeed News reviewed over 80 internal TikTok meetings to establish that China had access to U.S. data from at least September 2021 through January 2022.
“Everything is seen in China,” a member of the TikTok Trust and Safety department said.
TikTok previously assured users that only U.S. employees could view their data. Yet the report found that U.S. TikTok staffers do not have permission to, consume personal information. As a result, U.S. engineers rely on a Beijing-based engineer to provide them with user data.
The BuzzFeed review further established that TikTok employees in Beijing accessed nonpublic U.S. user information, including phone numbers and birthdays. The same finding learned that ByteDance instructed employees to push pro-Beijing messaging to U.S. users.
ByteDance developed what the tech industry considers the most sophisticated algorithm to date. We covered last summer how TikTok is able to manipulate users to a greater extent than even Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
“On average, TikTok learns a user’s interests in under two hours. At that point, the algorithm feeds on the users’ weaknesses to keep them scrolling on the app. To be specific, TikTok looks to capitalize on users going through breakups and periods of depression.
“TikTok bombards users with content that it knows they likely won’t be able to ignore. And like all satanic blueprints, TikTok especially feeds on the weak: 25% of TikTok’s active users in the U.S. are people aged 10-19.”
TikTok, the silent abuser.
Commissioner Carr’s attempt to ban TikTok follows a previous push from the Trump administration. In 2020, the White House worked to ban the app to no avail.
Trump argued that TikTok’s “data collection threatens to allow” China to “access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information.” That would be correct.
“I don’t believe there is a path forward for anything other than a ban,” Carr concludes.