The Taipei Times reported on Beijing’s increasing pressure on Taiwan regarding the unification and its efforts to make the country undercut the “U.S. influence in the region.” Citing an annual report by the U.S. intelligence community, the report claimed China has been using TikTok to spread disinformation in Taiwan. The aim behind spreading misinformation was “to create suspicion and sabotage Taiwan-US relations.”
According to the Taipei Times, the conclusions were part of the “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and presented to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, March 9.
Taipei Times reported, citing the U.S. Intelligence Community’s report, that China was increasingly combining its growing military power with its economic, technological, and diplomatic influence to entrench its rule, bolster its territorial claims and pursue global influence.
FBI Concerned About China’s Use of TikTok
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray told U.S. lawmakers that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control data on millions of American users, saying the Chinese-owned video app “screams” of security concerns, Reuters reported.
Wray told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control software on millions of devices, and drive narratives to divide Americans over Taiwan or other issues.
Wray expressed his concerns that China could feed misinformation to users and said: “I would make the point on that last one, in particular, that we are not sure that we would see many of the outward signs of it happening if it was happening.”
“This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government — and it, to me, it screams out with national security concerns,” he said.
Forbes earlier reported that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance planned to use the app to monitor specific location details of certain American citizens, citing materials it reviewed. Meanwhile, TikTok slammed Forbes for publishing the allegations and pushed back on the report, denying that it had ever tracked certain U.S. citizens with their specific locations.
Biden’s administration has reportedly been nearing a deal with the company to allow it to keep operating in the U.S. under more stringent security measures, according to The New York Times.
Separately, the Washington Post reported that President Biden endorsed a bipartisan bill that does not call TikTok out by name but would empower him to restrict or ban the platform following concerns that China can use it to track American data or spread propaganda.
Marco Rubio of Florida, the committee’s Republican co-chairman asked: “Let's say China wants to invade Taiwan — to make sure that Americans are seeing videos arguing why Taiwan belongs to China and why the U.S. should not intervene?”
According to the Taipei Times, other top U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone agreed at the hearing that TikTok posed a threat to U.S. national security.
TikTok Accused of Spreading Misinformation
TikTok, one of the world’s fastest-growing social networks, has previously received criticism for facilitating the spread of false information during elections. And although the platform outlined a strategy for combating misinformation, including a prohibition on paid political content from influencers, Belgium is banning TikTok from government phones over worries about cybersecurity, privacy, and misinformation, mirroring recent action by other authorities in Europe and the U.S.
As reported by Associated Press, TikTok said it is “disappointed at this suspension, which is based on basic misinformation about our company.” The company said it is “readily available to meet with officials to address any concerns and set the record straight on misconceptions.”
TikTok is owned by China’s ByteDance, which moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. The company sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots, saying its parent company is incorporated outside of China and its majority owned by global institutional investors, Associated Press reported.