TikTok, the leading social media network in China, issued a statement maintaining the company does not remove content based on sensitivities related to communist China censorship, amid warnings from U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who caution the app poses an imminent national security risk.
Leaked documents, acquired by The Guardian last month, indicate TikTok stringently censors content showcasing China’s brutalization of its citizenry in an effort to moderate “hate speech and religion.”
According to documents
obtained by The Guardian, the company instructs its
employees to remove posts featuring “sensitive topics,” including depictions of
the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, “incidents” exhibiting the Cambodian
genocide, the 1998 riots in Indonesia, and other topics exposing China’s
Users who breach the company’s inhibiting guidelines are purportedly shadowbanned, meaning TicTok’s moderators employ algorithms to eliminate the reach and visibility of the posts, rather than just getting their inculpating posts deleted.
Any mention of Falun Gong, a meditative spiritual practice outlawed by an antireligious campaign launched by the Chinese Communist Party in 1999, results in users getting banned from the platform.
TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based parent company Bytedance, issued a statement Friday contesting allegations of adhering to Chinese regulations.
“Let us be very clear: TikTok does not remove content based
on sensitivities related to China. We have never been asked by the Chinese
government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period,” the company
said. “Our US moderation team, which is led out of California, reviews content
for adherence to our US policies – just like other US companies in our space.
“We are not influenced by any foreign government,
including the Chinese government; TikTok does not operate in China, nor do we
have any intention of doing so in the future.”
An investigation conducted by Washington Post in September, reveals
a search of content related to Hong Kong’s pro-democratic protests and civil
unrest in the country, entering its 16th straight week, appear
nowhere on TikTok’s platform, which is globally installed by 1.3 billion users.
TikTok, the second most downloaded app worldwide behind Facebook-owned WhatsApp, insisted in its statement that the Chinese government is not privy to its users’ data privacy or security.
“Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law,” the statement reads. “Further, we have a dedicated technical team focused on adhering to robust cybersecurity policies, and data privacy and security practices.”
Despite TikTok’s pledge of “providing a safe and expressive app experience,” Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton are demanding the U.S. intelligence community evaluate the national security risks posed by the social media network and other Chinese-owned platforms.
Contradicting TikTok’s claims of legal autonomy from China, the lawmakers warned in a letter to the acting U.S. Director of National Intelligence Wednesday that its parent company, ByteDance, is “still required to adhere” to Chinese law.
“Security experts have voiced concerns that China’s vague
patchwork of intelligence, national security, and cybersecurity laws compel
Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by
the Chinese Communist Party,” the letter said. “Without an independent
judiciary to review requests made by the Chinese government for data or other
actions, there is no legal mechanism for Chinese companies to appeal if they
disagree with a request.”
Apps owned by a hostile foreign government could be used to conduct
espionage on American citizens or meddle with election integrity, the lawmakers
Earlier this month, Sen. Marco Rubio demanded TikTok be investigated by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, which monitors overseas purchases of American businesses, over its acquisition of the app Musical.ly after the post exposed the company is suppressing posts about anti-government Hong Kong protests.
“There continues to be ample and growing evidence that
TikTok’s platform for Western markets, including those in the United States, is
censoring content that is not in line with the Chinese Government and Communist
Party directives,” Rubio said in a statement.
The #antielab hashtag, a central organizing post named
for protesters’ resistance to an extradition bill seen as weakening Hong Kong
sovereignty, has more than
34,000 posts on Instagram but only 11 posts on
TikTok, totaling about 3,000 views. The hashtags for #HongKongProtests and #HongKongProtestors,
some of the biggest rallying points on Twitter, return either a single video or
an error message: “Couldn’t find this hashtag: Check out trending videos.”
The #HongKongProtest hashtag
showed six videos, totaling about 5,000 views.
TikTok isn’t the only tech giant alleged to be engaged in nefarious
behavior with the communist Chinese government against the United States.
Google, which has drawn scrutiny for biasing search results against conservatives, artificially promoting left-wing causes, and smearing and blacklisting conservatives, is treasonously working with China to weaponize artificial intelligence, renowned Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel warns.
According to Thiel, Google’s collaborative project with China involving military technology, dubbed “Deep Mind” poses a national security threat akin to The Manhattan Project. He is demanding the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Central Intelligence Agency investigate the company’s activities with China in developing Deep Mind.
“There’s this very peculiar background where Google is working with the Chinese Communist government and not with the U.S. military,” he told Fox News in July. “The Project Maven decision was a decision not to work with the A.I., with the U.S. military – but they’re working with the Communist Chinese.”