White House national security communications adviser John Kirby told reporters on Monday that TikTok, the social media platform controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, is too much of a security risk to be allowed on government devices.
“From a national security standpoint, there are still concerns about using TikTok on government devices,”
But a day earlier, Kirby’s boss, President Joe Biden, was posting the first video on his own campaign TikTok account, leaving people puzzled on both sides of the aisle.
The issues with TikTok are well known.
“The app, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has faced scrutiny in Congress over improper data use, given that Chinese law requires China’s companies to share information with the government,” Time reported.
New Hampshire is taking it seriously. Gov. Chris Sununu has banned the use of TikTok on state devices, and Attorney General John Formella joined a multi-state effort asking a judge to force the company to release more details about how it does business.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and he’s called for a ban on TikTok in the U.S.
“TikTok is a modern-day Trojan horse of the [Chinese Communist Party], used to surveil and exploit Americans’ personal information,” McCaul said last year. “It’s a spy balloon in your phone.”
That was a reference to the Chinese surveillance balloon Biden allowed to traverse the U.S. before shooting it down off the South Carolina coast last year.
National security experts have warned for years that China has stepped up its espionage targeting the United States. Last year, Foreign Policy magazine published an article entitled “China Has Been Waging a Decades-Long, All-Out Spy War.”
Just a week ago, Chinese hackers were caught spreading malware in the U.S. that could target systems controlling water treatment plants, the electrical grid, and transportation systems.
TikTok, which is on the phones of some 150 million Americans, gives the Chinese Communist Party the potential to gather massive amounts of data that could be used to track everything from movements of military personnel to activities of families of high-value U.S. targets.
In 2022, Biden took the threat so seriously, he signed legislation blocking using TikTok on government devices. His administration also threatened to ban TikTok if the owners at ByteDance didn’t sell to an American company.
But in a “that was then, this is now” moment, the Biden-Harris campaign has its own TikTok handle.
“It underscores how deep a hole the Biden campaign is in with younger voters,” political analyst Josh Kraushaar said on Fox News Monday. “Polls show Biden is tied with Trump among a constituency that has been heavily Democratic in recent elections. This is a move made out of desperation.”
New Hampshire Democrats have been reluctant to call for a TikTok ban, though Sen. Jeanne Shaheen — who serves on the Armed Services Committee — has expressed some concerns about the app.
Neither she nor Sen. Maggie Hassan are cosponsors of the bipartisan RESTRICT Act, designed to give the White House more power to deal with threats from foreign-owned social media and tech platforms.
According to Pew Research, about one-third of Americans 18-29 years old get their news from TikTok. That compares with 15 percent of those ages 30 to 49, seven percent of those 50 to 64, and just 3 percent of those 65 and older.