What do you do about a problem like TikTok? It shouldn’t be a difficult question, but for years many have been warning about the app being a “trojan horse” collecting biometric data on users for the Chinese Communist Party and yet, with the exception of action taken by President Donald Trump, our government seems reticent to act. The wildly popular video app is a product of a Chinese company called ByteDance which, like all Chinese companies, is obligated by Chinese law to assist the government and are answerable to the CCP, and that would include the sharing of data.
Senator Marco Rubio has been warning since 2019 about the malign efforts of the CCP and their use of TikTok to spy on American citizens. In a statement in August of 2021 urging the Biden administration to ban TikTok in the United States, he warned, ““The Biden administration can no longer pretend that TikTok is not beholden to the Chinese Communist Party. Beijing’s aggressiveness makes clear that the regime sees TikTok as an extension of the party-state, and the US needs to treat it that way.”
Rubio had to take that action because upon becoming president Joe Biden reversed the executive order put in place in 2020 by President Donald Trump to ban TikTok in the United States. Biden, predictably, replaced it with a pablum order to “review” foreign-owned apps. The situation is now so grave, Democratic Senator and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner told Vox in November, “‘As painful as it is for me to say, if Donald Trump was right and we could’ve taken action then, that’d have been a heck of a lot easier than trying to take action in November of 2022,’ Warner told Recode. ‘The sooner we bite the bullet, the better.’”
Reports continue to grow indicating TikTok has been storing users’ passwords, and credit card data. Moreover, Forbes has revealed their discovery that TikTok intends to “use the TikTok app to monitor the personal location of some specific American citizens.” Senator Tom Cotton has now bluntly warned the American people to delete the TikTok app and then replace the phone itself. In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security he noted in part, “TikTok captures vast amounts of private information on users, including American citizens, and has long been suspected of providing the CCP with potential access to that information. This threatens the safety and security of American citizens and also functions as an avenue for the Chinese government to track the locations of and develop blackmail on federal employees and contractors.”
The risk is recognized by our government as severe enough to ban our military from having it on their phones as well as “banks and the Department of Defense have told employees to delete the app from company, government, and personal devices. Even the Democratic Party, which has happily embraced the app to reach the youths, uses separate, dedicated devices just for TikTok to ensure that no important files will be compromised. Everyone knows it’s Chinese spyware, and yet few American leaders want to do anything about it,” reported the Examiner.
It’s clear the political class and permanent bureaucracy in Washington, DC is well aware of the threat by banning it in select areas. But why not everywhere? Allowing the CCP to continue to do as it pleases with a few exceptions is the equivalent of allowing a foreign army onto our soil and asking them to limit what they take. It’s absurd, but it’s also strange and exceedingly dangerous.
One of the reasons American leaders are slow-walking this serious threat may be due to the massive lobbying operation TikTok has in place to keep Congress and the White House from acting. Multiple reports indicate a number of previously powerful Republicans and Democratic senators as well as dozens of former congressional staff members are lobbying on behalf of TikTok despite the overwhelming evidence it is operating as a surveillance tool for the CCP.
In July 2020 Open Secrets, an investigative and transparency website focusing on money in politics, reported “TikTok’s [lobbying] roster also includes influencers with close ties to top Democrats in Congress. TikTok recently restructured its internal lobbying team by adding several well-connected lobbyists, CNBC reported. Among the company’s new hires is Michael Hacker, former senior adviser to House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Michael Bloom, a former senior adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).” They also report the involvement of David Urban, involved with Trump’s 2016 campaign and 2020 re-election effort.
It doesn’t stop there. TikTok is “paying an army of lobbyists including former Sens. Trent Lott (R-MS) and John Breaux (D-LA) and former Reps. Jeffrey Dunham (R-CA) and Barton Gordon (D-TN). The lobbying team also includes at least 31 former congressional staffers nearly evenly split between parties, including those who worked for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY),” according to the Examiner.
Rep. Mike Gallagher told the newspaper, “It’s abhorrent that any American, let alone former members and staffers, would sell out their country to make a quick buck courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party and its proxies.” Indeed.
In the meantime, as TikTok continues to feed its communist bosses in Beijing our biometric and other sensitive data, it’s more than privacy that’s at stake—it’s national security during a time of war and adventurism by the world’s tyrants including the CCP, Putin, Iran, and North Korea.
One international media entity warns Tiktok is a “tool for espionage” and should be banned in all Democratic countries, saying it is “naïve and dangerous” allowing it to continue. Senators Rubio and Gallagher are calling for TikTok to be banned in the United States. With the Keystone Kops running the White House, we need more than talk and investigations. We need action by Congress to ban this bomb hidden in plain sight, while we still can.