Ongoing Chinese language Affect Operations May Strengthen the Case for a TikTok Ban

TikTok CEO to Appear Before US Congress, as Pressure Mounts on the Chinese-Owned App

Whereas TikTok has over 150 million US users who’re more and more spending extra of their time within the app, its recognition may be clouding issues round its potential for hurt, which is the important thing focus of the ongoing discussions around whether or not to ban the app.

And whereas, for essentially the most half, I might belief the recommendation of cybersecurity specialists on this entrance, with varied officers from varied nations raising significant concerns about the app, I might additionally look to different circumstances the place China-based teams have been looking for to infiltrate US-based networks in an effort to collect info, seed propaganda, and manipulate opinion.

Which is going on on a regular basis. Simply at present, Microsoft reported that Chinese language state-sponsored group ‘Volt Tycoon’ has performed varied operations designed to disrupt vital communications infrastructure between the US and Asia, with an intention to control such in circumstances of future crises.

As per Microsoft:

Volt Storm has been lively since mid-2021 and has focused vital infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere in the US. On this marketing campaign, the affected organizations span the communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, building, maritime, authorities, info expertise, and training sectors. Noticed habits means that the risk actor intends to carry out espionage and preserve entry with out being detected for so long as potential.

Google, in the meantime, has removed tens of thousands of YouTube channels over the previous yr linked to a different China-based risk actor known as ‘Dragonbridge’, which seeks to construct YouTube audiences with a view of spreading pro-China propaganda, whereas Twitter and Facebook are additionally frequently tasked with addressing Chinese language-backed campaigns designed to regulate and affect dialogue inside every app.

Given the scope of efforts to mitigate such on non-Chinese language-owned platforms, it appears fairly secure to imagine that TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, is much more more likely to be a vector for a similar. And with ByteDance based mostly in China, it’s tougher for authorities to make sure optimum transparency over such, whereas the corporate can be sure by China’s cybersecurity legal guidelines, which successfully grant full information entry to CCP officers on request.

Add to this reviews that ByteDance has many CCP-aligned staff, and that the corporate has itself sought to use TikTok data for surveillance purposes, on US journalists no much less, and it does appear that there’s a reasonably sturdy case for concern about TikTok’s operational approaches on this respect, and the way it may very well be a device for illicit schemes.

TikTok, after all, has repeatedly denied this, whereas additionally claiming that its US person information will quickly be siloed off from all China-based staff. However even that declare has been refuted by Oracle, its key associate on this mission, whereas latest reviews have additionally steered that TikTok workers have been sharing user information via internal messaging systems, which might simply be infiltrated.

At greatest, the reviews recommend that TikTok’s groups have a distinct view on optimum information safety than many western cybersecurity specialists, whereas at worst, they mirror that TikTok is certainly beholden to the Chinese language Authorities, and that mum or dad firm ByteDance is already doing its bidding.

And once more, once you match this up with broader reportage of China-based affect operations in different apps, I’d says the case for a TikTok ban is pretty sturdy, significantly as China continues to escalate tensions with neighboring regions, and threatens to challenge the US on completely different fronts.

The counter-argument that different apps additionally observe and make the most of comparable person information will not be the identical on this respect, as there’s no geopolitical adversarialism inside US-based organizations. And there’s no document of Meta or Twitter trying to manipulate such in the identical means, with ByteDance seemingly taking a distinct view to this factor than US corporations.

Does that imply that TikTok must be banned? Once more, I might facet with the specialists on this entrance, who can be far more knowledgeable of the potential for hurt. However I might observe that there’s a sturdy case, and that in case you are advocating for TikTok to stay in operation, it is advisable to contemplate your private bias inside that, and whether or not the reported details match up with this stance.

CFIUS is still deliberating on a US ban, and TikTok continues to be working to deal with all issues, which may nonetheless see a collaborative resolution established. However don’t be stunned if the White Home does announce a ban, someday within the close to future. Whether or not you just like the app or not.

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