Just because Chinese bombs are not falling and soldiers are not marching (yet) on America does not mean there is no war against America.
China is waging unrestricted war on the United States. From the theft of military and industrial secrets to the poisoning of American culture and elections, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been waging hybrid warfare without firing a shot (yet).
Hybrid warfare is a theory of military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare, and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare, and foreign electoral intervention. The goal of hybrid warfare is to create divisions in society and artificially create internal discontent. TikTok is an example.
TikTok is a worldwide social media platform app with 1 billion active users who enjoy its easy yet sophisticated video sharing. It has become a major player in targeted advertising by its ability to collect sensitive personal data from users without their knowledge. TikTok has 100 million American users, up 800% since 2018. ByteDance, headquartered in Beijing, China, founded TikTok in 2016. Sensitive personal data from users collected by TikTok is a national security threat to America due to the 2017 Chinese National Intelligence Law, which states, “any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.” The collection of personal data on the enemy (United States citizens) is of strategic value.
TikTok stores vast quantities of personal data, including biometrics such as facial geometry and voice recognition. Biometrics are of high intelligence value to security services. TikTok claims the data is stored in the U.S. and Singapore, but its parent company, ByteDance, has all its computers in China. One can reasonably assume TikTok will deceive (as Communists always do) what its parent company ByteDance orders, including data transfer to ByteDance. One can reasonably assume ByteDance will follow the dictates of Chinese intelligence law. One can also reasonably assume that CCP security services are harvesting the data.
Data collection from children under the age of 13 by TikTok violates the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule of 1998, which requires obtaining verifiable parental consent. Multiple consumer groups have alerted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that TikTok continues to violate children’s privacy. However, there has been no discernible FTC action against TikTok children's data collection.
TikTok censors users when posting content critical of CCP interests, thus demonstrating it follows state diktats. No posting of topics such as the Uighur genocide in Xinjiang, Tibetan independence, Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong, and Taiwan independence is allowed. If one does attempt to post, the post is deleted, and the account is suspended.
China’s “Great Firewall” controls the internet content in China. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other American social media companies are banned. In addition, the Great Firewall prevents users from accessing foreign news sources such as the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and BBC.
The U.S. military and some private companies have banned TikTok on business devices. Why the entire U.S. Government doesn’t ban TikTok from all devices is not known. Democrat Senator Mark Warner said President Trump was “right when it comes to the security risks around Chinese-owned TikTok.” President Trump wanted to shut down Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat for security reasons but was blocked by Federal court orders. Currently, the Biden administration is conducting its own review of threats from Chinese apps.
Why does the U.S. government allow TikTok to flourish in America, collecting intelligence data and corrupting our culture and youth? Why doesn’t the U.S. government demand reciprocity from China in internet access? Perhaps the answer is in Peter Schweizer’s “Red Handed,” where he writes, “Presidential families, Silicon Valley gurus, Wall Street high rollers, Ivy League institutions, professional athletes -- all willing to sacrifice American strength and security on the altar of personal enrichment.”
We have met the enemy, and he/she is us.
Author Laurence F. Sanford, Senior Analyst for the American Security Council Foundation, is a veteran of the United States Navy and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)
Chinese Communist Party