Over 300 employees of the popular social media platform TikTok have been discovered to have previously worked for media outlets that were run by the ruling government of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
According to Fox Business, a survey of hundreds of TikTok employees’ LinkedIn profiles, conducted by Forbes, found that at least 300 employees of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance have previous experience in Chinese state media, with 15 employees currently working for both.
“Fifteen indicate that current ByteDance employees are also concurrently employed by Chinese state media entities, including Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International and China Central/China Global Television,” the report reads in part. The U.S. State Department has labeled these organizations as “foreign government functionaries.”
The app, which first gained widespread popularity for hosting short, Vine-like videos featuring users lip-synching famous songs, has long been known to have direct ties to China, with many figures from across the political spectrum warning of the danger of users’ personal information possibly being harvested by the Chinese through their accounts on the app.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funning videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” said Brendan Carr, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
In response to the report, ByteDance spokeswoman Jennifer Banks downplayed the connections with China, saying that the company only hires people “purely on an individual’s professional capability to do the job.”
“For our China-market businesses,” she continued, “that includes people who have previously worked in government or state media positions in China. Outside of China, employees also bring experience in government, public policy, and media organizations from dozens of markets.”