". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


House Passes Bill Banning TikTok despite Chinese Lobbying

April 22, 2024

Over the weekend, the House passed legislation by a wide bipartisan margin that would ban the popular social media app TikTok in the U.S. unless the China-based owner sells its stake within the next nine months. Experts applauded the move due to concerns that the app compromises the sensitive data of American citizens and spreads propaganda approved by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The bill passed despite a significant amount of pushback from Chinese diplomats last week, who met with staffers in both chambers of Congress to lobby against the bill. But as author Peter Schweizer pointed out on Thursday’s “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” China’s opposition to the measure should not come as a surprise.

“[W]hat people need to understand is that it’s not just that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is a Chinese company. It’s a [company that is] uniquely connected to the Chinese state,” he noted. “The algorithm, for example, that drives TikTok and makes it so addictive and so capable of predicting what the audience wants to see — that’s not only a company secret for ByteDance. The Chinese government has actually declared it a state secret. … [ByteDance] does a lot of joint research with the Chinese Ministry of State Security.”

Schweizer, who serves as president of the Government Accountability Institute, went on to acknowledge that some lawmakers have criticized the bill on the grounds that it penalizes American investors who own a stake in the company.

“But what really is not being acknowledged is that the actual controlling shares, the people that vote to decide what ByteDance is going to do or not going to do are all Chinese,” he explained. “[I]n fact, the American [shareholders] who have put money into ByteDance … according to Fortune magazine, they signed an agreement when they invested in the company that if they disparage or criticize the company publicly, their shares can actually be taken away from them without compensation.”

Schweizer, the author of “Blood Money: Why the Powerful Turn a Blind Eye While China Kills Americans,” further observed that “a 2017 law that was passed under President Xi that says all companies in China, if asked by the Ministry of State Security to perform certain functions that can be sharing data that can be spreading propaganda, etc., are obligated to do so under the full penalty of law. So there’s just no question that ByteDance is already performing valuable services for the Chinese government.”

Schweizer provided additional details on how the CCP uses TikTok in two primary ways: to harvest private information from users and to spread communist propaganda.

“[F]lowing to the Chinese Communist Party is a massive amount of data,” he described. “… And look, somebody who’s 15 years old right now might not worry about it. That 15-year-old might become an Air Force pilot, may becom[e] an FBI agent. China has that information and will have all sorts of information on them.”

Schweizer continued, “But the second thing that’s flowing from ByteDance to consumers in the United States is propaganda. … And it’s not simplistic propaganda. It’s not placards of Chairman Mao marching through Tiananmen Square. It’s highly sophisticated. And [Chinese officials] describe in detail how TikTok is the ultimate Trojan horse for advancing CCP values in the West and how they use emotion. Because this short form video platform can elicit really intense emotions from young people, that it makes young people very susceptible to propaganda and that they use that manipulation to their advantage.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins commented that the CCP’s use of TikTok is part of long-term strategy. “China is playing the long game. [T]his is a ‘100-year marathon,’ as it’s been described. This is to desensitize and potentially set up the next generation to allow China … to be the global leader.”

Schweizer concurred. “[It’s] what they call … ‘cognitive warfare’ [to] encourage the dumbing down of America, the limitation of intellectual capabilities of young people. So if you look at what TikTok does in the United States, you get a lot of silly videos, a lot of people screaming into the camera, a lot of pranks. China does not have TikTok, but they have the equivalent version, which is also produced by ByteDance called Douyin. [It’s] not silly videos, it’s not people with blue hair screaming on camera. It’s actually things like science, history, culture. So while our young people … are getting cotton candy, Chinese young people … are getting spinach. And that is quite by design.”

If passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Biden, the bill banning TikTok is expected to face a litany of lawsuits and may not go into effect for years.

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.