Communist China Has Weaponized TikTok Against America. Now, Congress Must Act.

March 25, 2024

When reports emerged earlier this year that TikTok was looking to open an office in Nashville, my message to the tech company was clear: Look somewhere else to set up shop—because Tennesseans don’t want Communist China in our backyard.

For years, we have seen mounting evidence that TikTok—whose social media app is used by 170 million Americans—is a tool of wide-scale espionage and propaganda wielded by the Chinese Communist Party against the American people.

Just last year, TikTok executives admitted that the company stores Americans’ sensitive information, including social security numbers and tax forms, on Chinese servers.

While the company has repeatedly insisted that this information is inaccessible in Communist China, reports continue to show that China-based employees have access to U.S. users’ private data. In fact, according to leaked internal audio from company meetings, a member of TikTok’s so-called Trust and Safety team claimed that “everything is seen in China.” In another recording, a TikTok director said an employee based in Beijing has “access to everything.”

This collection of Americans’ data is a tremendous national security threat. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is tied to the Chinese Communist Party by strict laws in Beijing that force companies to hand over users’ personal data—meaning our top geopolitical adversary has the ability to spy on tens of millions of Americans.

This close connection between TikTok and Communist China also exposes Americans—especially young people—to propaganda campaigns that are against U.S. interests, values, and security. Just last month, after the social media company faced accusations of boosting pro-Palestinian content following Hamas’s October 7th attack against Israel, TikTok disabled a feature that allowed researchers to track the disproportionate coverage.

At the same time, the platform has potentially throttled content contrary to China’s interests, including posts about the Tiananmen Square Massacre as well as the authoritarian regime’s crackdown on Hong Kong and genocide against the Muslim Uyghurs.

One thing should be clear: TikTok is a weapon in the hands of Communist China—and Congress must take immediate action to address it.

Thankfully, in recent weeks, we have seen real momentum to eliminate this security threat, including legislation passed by the House of Representatives that would either ban TikTok or ensure it is owned by an American company.

Just last week, the U.S. Senate held its own classified briefing about TikTok, and what we learned confirmed everything we know about the danger of this spyware app.

That’s why I called on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify information regarding TikTok so that Tennesseans and Americans can fully understand the threat it poses to our country.

While Senate leadership is reportedly slow-walking action on this issue, I have pushed to take immediate action to either ban TikTok or force it to be sold to an American company.

More than anything, TikTok’s response to these developments emphasizes the need for urgent action. After the Chinese-owned app encouraged its young users to call congressional offices to oppose the legislation, my office received more than 2,000 calls, including a handful in which individuals—including middle and high schoolers—threatened to harm me or commit suicide.

No company—especially one controlled by the Chinese Communist Party—should be able to mobilize young Americans to threats of self-harm or violence against elected lawmakers.

But make no mistake: I will not bow to this intimidation campaign. And I will stop at nothing to ensure that TikTok’s security threat to our nation is eliminated.