An analysis of LinkedIn profiles has revealed that 300 TikTok employees once worked for the Chinese state media.
- Forbes reviewed hundreds of LinkedIn profiles of current employees of TikTok and ByteDance, the company that owns the site, finding that 300 of them were once Chinese state media employees.
- Of these profiles, 23 were managing “content partnerships, public affairs, corporate social responsibility, and media cooperation.”
- Fifteen of the profiles indicate that the employees are also currently employed by Chinese state media groups, several of which are identified by the State Department as extensions of the Chinese government.
Why it’s news
Chinese state media has a presence on many social media platforms where they are clearly labeled. TikTok, however, does not have these same labels.
The state-run media companies use social-media platforms to spread disinformation and propaganda that serves the interests of the Chinese Communist Party.
TikTok had announced plans in March to start labeling the state-run media companies on TikTok, however some of China’s largest media companies like China News Service and Xinhua News Service still don’t have a label.
Though 15 of the LinkedIn profiles showed employees working for both ByteDance and the Chinese state media, a ByteDance representative told Forbes that company policy does not allow employees to work two jobs.
Chinese influence on TikTok could be an issue in American culture. Already the app is a powerful tool in driving the focus and interests of common discourse.
In 2019, President Donald Trump called for the app to be banned in the U.S., wary of the influence it could have on the American public.
Some reports also claim that the app works differently in China as opposed to other countries. While videos promoting education, entrepreneurship, and art are fed to Chinese users, viewers in other countries see more entertainment-based videos.
Former Air Force software officer Nicolas Chaillan explained some of the differences between Douyin, the Chinese TikTok, and the TikTok app in other countries.
Chaillan says that younger Chinese users are restricted to time limits on the app as well as limiting the app at night. He says that the variation between apps is intentional—pushing education and science on Chinese users while promoting mindless content to the rest of the world.
In June, a BuzzFeed news report claimed that U.S. user data was repeatedly being accessed in China. Safety concerns surrounding the app have continued to grow.