In a recent interview at The New York Times’ DealBook summit, Vice President Kamala Harris avoided addressing concerns about TikTok and its Chinese ownership. When asked about the need for regulation of a Chinese-owned social media platform that is widely used in the United States, Harris diverted the conversation to discuss disinformation and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
The Biden administration had previously called for TikTok to sever ties with its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, or face a potential ban in the US. However, negotiations resumed in September.
Despite the growing concerns about TikTok’s Chinese ownership, Harris did not directly address whether the platform should be regulated. When asked about China’s influence on the United States, she avoided giving a specific response.
Experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). ByteDance has a CCP committee, and the company’s founder has acknowledged that it serves as a “mouthpiece” for the CCP, according to a legal filing by the Justice Department. Experts have also highlighted the CCP’s influence over TikTok’s algorithm.
Additionally, there are allegations that ByteDance has blocked individuals critical of China from accessing TikTok, as highlighted in a report by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. This suggests that the platform may restrict access to information and promote a specific narrative.
Despite these concerns, Harris did not provide a clear stance on TikTok. While she admitted that she is not personally on TikTok, she acknowledged that many of her family members are active users. Harris evaded the question when asked if she advises them to stop using the platform.
Reports have also surfaced about the potential privacy risks associated with TikTok. Forbes reported that personnel from TikTok and ByteDance have access to the private connections of various politicians. The platform’s social graph tool allows them to view connections of individuals, including President Joe Biden’s family members, governors, senators, and state attorneys general.
Furthermore, TikTok has recently faced criticism for allowing a viral trend in which users read and react positively to Osama bin Laden’s letter justifying the September 11, 2001 attacks. The platform eventually took action to address this issue.
In conclusion, during the interview, Vice President Kamala Harris avoided directly addressing concerns about TikTok and its Chinese ownership. The lack of a clear stance from the Biden administration raises questions about the government’s approach to regulating social media platforms with potential national security risks.