Some Democrats are arguing that Chinese-owned TikTok shouldn’t be banned from the U.S. because its popularity with young people would make banning it a foolish move politically. I argue that TikTok’s popularity as the number one social media app for American youth is one of the main reasons for banning it.
Why? Because TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) owns a board seat and financial stake in ByteDance. As a Chinese company, ByteDance is directly answerable to and surveilled by the CCP, and China practices “civil-military fusion,” where everything in the economic and tech spheres is accessible to the Chinese military. TikTok collects disturbingly detailed data on users, including faceprints, voiceprints, location data, device type, file names and types, keystroke patterns, time zone settings, battery data, and user activity across multiple devices.
Chinese employees at ByteDance can access TikTok data, and all Chinese companies are required to share data, including non-public data, with the CCP. TikTok trackers were just found embedded on multiple state government websites, too. All of which is to say that TikTok is an easy way for the CCP, which is actively hostile to the U.S., to collect incredibly detailed and personal data on millions of Americans, including not only citizens but government officials. That is most definitely a national security risk.
Fox News China expert Gordon Chang told MRC Free Speech America in exclusive comments prior to the TikTok CEO’s March 23 congressional testimony that TikTok doesn’t have a choice about spying on Americans, because of its Chinese ownership:
“[TikTok CEO Chew] is going to say, as he has in the past, that TikTok would never spy on U.S. companies or users, but that’s not his call,” Chang said. “The 2017 national intelligence law of China articles 7 and 14 require every Chinese entity to spy if demanded.” He explained that although TikTok U.S. is not a Chinese company, its parent company ByteDance would be “obligated under general shareholder principles to follow what its shareholder says.”
TikTok also has an algorithm that deliberately feeds young people harmful content. A 2022 study found that TikTok’s algorithm recommends self-harm and eating disorder content to new users, sometimes within minutes of their joining the platform, CBS reported. Back in September 2021, a Wall Street Journal investigation found that TikTok “can quickly drive young users into endless spools of adult content, including videos touting drug use and promoting pornography sites.”
As the most telling fact of all, the version of TikTok for domestic use in China, Douyin, has a different algorithm than TikTok–and it shows teenagers completely different content, according to the New York Post. “The [Douyin] algorithm is vastly different, promoting science, educational and historical content in China while making our citizens watch stupid dance videos with the main goal of making us imbeciles,” was how Nicolas Chaillan, former Air Force and Space Force chief software officer, explained it to the Post. TikTok is designed not only as spyware, but explicitly to harm American youth. Therefore, it is essential that it be banned now, or it will continue to pipe private data to the hostile CCP and to wreak untold damage on millions of Americans.
That’s why Democrats’ arguments defending TikTok are so insufficient. For example, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), a member of the “Squad,” posted a video to his TikTok account this week opposing a ban of the app. He also said calls to ban the Chinese-owned app are “fear mongering” fueled by “xenophobia around China.” You can always trust a Democrat to pull the race card, particularly at the least appropriate moment. There’s no “xenophobia” involved in banning TikTok–otherwise why would the Chinese themselves refuse to allow TikTok or its algorithm in their own country?
Yet Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA), a self-described “TikTok superconsumer,” also oppose banning the app. Meanwhile, teenage TikToker Aidan Kohn-Murphy, who shamelessly lobbied for Biden on TikTok during the presidential election, is now threatening dire consequences to Democrats if TikTok is banned (he might actually have time to think of something awful like that!!), according to NBC News. “If they went ahead with banning TikTok, it would feel like a slap in the face to a lot of young Americans,” the leftist activist said. “Democrats don’t understand the political consequences this would have.” Kohn-Murphy created TikTok for Biden, which became Gen Z for Change, a political nonprofit that includes 500 creators with a total of 500 million followers across various tech platforms. As NBC noted, Gen Zers tend to be overwhelmingly leftist and therefore Democrat.
But the whole point is that platforms such as TikTok propagandize young people. That’s one reason Democrats are probably reluctant to ban TikTok–it’s a platform that has proved useful in spreading Democrat narratives to a lot of young people, considering its mass popularity among teens and youth. But the other reason, I argue, is that some if not all of these Democrats are more or less enamored of or beholden to China. Jaamal Bowman and Robert Garcia don’t seem to care how many American teenagers are driven to suicide, self-harm, and porn addiction so long as China can keep profiting off the suffering of teenagers and Democrats can continue to post talking points to TikTok.