Despite years of warning bells and votes to ban and limit the usage of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, some congressional Democrats remain adamant that the supposed benefits outweigh the known security risks, even when those concerns are voiced among their own party.
The short-form video sharing app TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has assured during Senate hearing testimony that a “world-renowned, US-based security team” would determine who had access to American data collected during usage. However, as recent reports have shown and Democrats without blinders on can attest, the matter is not so straightforward.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee and is among Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) delegation to the Indo-Pacific, told The Hill, “If you are a [People’s Republic of China] company, or a company that is based in PRC, there are certain rules and regulations you operate under that you don’t if you are an American company and one of those is when Uncle Chinese Communist Party, Uncle CCP calls upon you to gain access, you can’t give them the stiff arm.”
Critics of the Chinese government like Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) acknowledged the security concerns, and despite those risks, he recently began using the app.
“We only just put something up for the first time. So it’s not something I have used extensively. I do have concerns about the company,” Malinowski admitted. “At the same time, tens of millions of Americans are on the site. So, you know, we’re on Facebook, even though I think Facebook has probably done more damage to American democracy than any company anywhere in the world. So this is always a dilemma.”
Massachusetts Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D) offered similar “everyone’s doing it” excuses and told The Hill, “I use it because we try to communicate with constituents through every medium available. We do town halls, mailers, surveys, tele-town halls, Twitter spaces, Instagram, Facebook, door knocking, TikTok. If I thought people were going to look at smoke signals and decipher that we would have a smoke signal program.”
“It’s a fractured media environment, and so we have to now talk across a bunch of different media to be able to reach folks and hear their concerns and then talk about what we’re doing,” he added.
So, while the Democrats openly pearl-clutch over so-called “threats to our democracy” posed by citizens concerned about securing free and fair elections, they actively engage in behavior that could present a national security threat. As reported on American Wire, “The risk is that the government could force ByteDance to collect and turn over information as a form of ‘data espionage.'”
Musk asks if TikTok ‘destroying civilization’ amid reports China-based app accessing US user data https://t.co/rVWf3AW5bJ
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) June 19, 2022
Well before that report, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) had introduced legislation that passed in the House of Representatives to prohibit federal employees from using the app on government-issued devices. Former President Donald Trump had even entertained a complete ban of the app in the United States.
As one Democratic aide told The Hill, “Most of these members voted to ban this on government devices, so either they’re hypocrites, they’re ill-informed, or they’re chasing clout at the expense of good policy and what’s in the best interest of the American government.”
Malinowski shared the Massachusetts lawmaker’s sentiments that because the people were using it, so too should their representatives.
“I have a lot of concerns about social media — including with regard to TikTok — but it’s very hard for a member of Congress to not be on a platform that my constituents are communicating on. I’m not just going to send snail mail to my constituents. I’ve got to be on the platforms they’re on,” he said.
“TikTok is not on any of my equipment,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said as he professed to being careful with his use of the app. “And it’s not on any of my official staffs’ equipment, as far as I know…But the TikTok account I have is on other people’s campaign equipment. So, that feels kind of air gapped to me.”
“I was not going to put it on my phone,” he added.
The aide went on to point out while referencing the CHIPS Act to fund domestic microchip production, “We literally just ratified a bill that will put $280 billion to compete against the Chinese. But for the interests of the likes and popularity we’re going to expose either their data or the data of their closest advisors to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese intelligence community. That seems to me like poor judgment.”
While Krishnamoorthi had attested, “I would not use TikTok,” his House Intel Committee colleague Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) signaled his favor toward trusting the Chinese. “Many of us have been given a warning that it could compromise security because of the potential backdoor to the Chinese government through the app. I understand that TikTok disagrees with that.”
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