Blackburn, Blumenthal Demand Answers From TikTok On Relationship With China-Owned ByteDance

October 3, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following reporting from The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are today demanding answers from TikTok over the company’s decision to hire several high-level executives from its China-based parent company, ByteDance. Given the Chinese government’s ability to access data held by Chinese companies, the decision to transfer ByteDance employees to influential positions at TikTok creates further questions about TikTok’s independence and may pose a significant national security risk.

TikTok Has Hired Several High-Level Executives From China-Based ByteDance

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “[s]ince the start of the year, a string of high-level executives have transferred from ByteDance to TikTok,” moving from China to the U.S., including after the departure of U.S. executives. The former ByteDance executives have reportedly assumed influential roles overseeing TikTok’s “advertising business, human resources, monetization, business marketing and products related to advertising and e-commerce initiatives” and have brought their own staff from Beijing.”

ByteDance’s Ties To The Chinese Government Pose A National Security Risk To The U.S. 

The relationship between ByteDance and TikTok poses a unique risk to the security and privacy of TikTok’s users in the United States. TikTok executives, including personnel based in China, have been found spying on American journalists, and, in leaked recordings, its staff acknowledged that “everything is seen in China.”

The Decision To Hire ByteDance Executives Highlights TikTok’s Broken Commitments To Congress

The personnel changes give the impression that TikTok is attempting to preserve ByteDance’s influence over TikTok while avoiding suspicion. Once again, TikTok’s actions appear to align with a pattern of misleading actions and broken commitments regarding serious matters related to users’ safety and national security, which we noted in a previous letter to you. We are concerned these personnel changes undermine the security of U.S. data and the representations TikTok has made about its independence from ByteDance.

 View the full letter to TikTok here.