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  /  Uncategorized   /  Why TikTok Is a National Security Threat

Why TikTok Is a National Security Threat

TikTok, a popular social media app that provides a medium through which its users can share short videos of just about anything within reason, seems harmless at first glance. What’s the worst that can happen by sharing a meme?

The social media platform, according to a November New York Times article, is a potential national security threat, as the Chinese government may be spying on American Tik Tok users. Yet very few Packer students—including those who are active on TikTok—seem to take the threat seriously. TikTok is de facto ruled by the Chinese government, which is de facto ruled by the Chinese Communist Party. This Party conquered East Turkestan, renamed it Xinjiang, imprisoned millions of Uyghur Muslims, killed 50 million people in the Great Leap Forward, allied with the former Soviet Union, annexed Tibet and called it Xizang, and enslaves little children, some of whom constitute the 3.8 million living under slavery worldwide. It is not unreasonable to ask why this is relevant to a social media platform, the answer to which is that the Chinese government heavily taxes each and every business within its borders, so much of the money TikTok gains from ad revenue is going straight to the Chinese Communist Party. This is all a byproduct of their socialist economy, as explained by Jinji Wei in a Dentons article.

Also, TikTok is under pressure from the Chinese government to monitor and censor what it does not consider “pro-China” enough. According to a Business Insider article, former TikTok employees in the United States have reported that employees in China have the final say in nearly all decision-making. They also said there are China-based moderators who advise them on what to censor, such as “objectionable and culturally problematic videos, including those featuring vaping, suggestive dancing, and social and political issues.” TikTok claims that the Chinese government has no control over them, but they are based in Beijing and so are heavily moderated by the Chinese Communist Party. Additionally, the Chinese government requires all tech companies, including TikTok, to store data within Chinese boundaries, as explained by the New York Times in July 2017. However, the “stored data” extends to more than just videos. By using the app, you have to give it access to your phone’s SD card (the equivalent of a hard drive, but for phones), the camera, all information about the hardware of your device, how and when you use it, data about other users, your age and gender (if you choose to include that information), and your location by using your phone’s internal GPS. They also put cookies in your phone, which store temporary data to make your TikTok experience faster, but also tracking you. All of this comes from TikTok America’s privacy policy. 

Beyond all of this, according to a February 2019 Washington Post article, TikTok was recently fined $5.7 million USD for illegally collecting the data of users under the age of 13. It is United States law that children 13 and older are allowed to give away inconsequential information, like their name, age, and what state/city they live in without parental consent. Likewise, children under 13 are required to get parental consent, which is all mandated by COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. As such, when TikTok knowingly collected the data of minors under 13 (an account is necessary to use the app), they were in direct violation of COPPA. It should be known that this illegal practice predates the transformation of to TikTok.

To be clear, this app is not made directly by the Chinese government and the Communist Party. The Chinese government technically allows free business, so they have no need to make their own state social media. TikTok is made by a company known as ByteDance, known as Zìjié Tiàodòng in China, and is based in Beijing, which means it is subject to mainland Chinese law. As an example of Chinese power over TikTok, a TikTok user named Ferora Aziz, living in New Jersey, was banned. Why? She urged users who watched her videos to research the atrocities of the Chinese government in Xinjiang on the Uyghur Muslims and in Xizang/Tibet on the oppression of Tibetans. 

However, many Packer students know not of such problems with TikTok nor of the severe invasions of their privacy. Charlotte Aligata (‘21) was interviewed on this topic, having been filled on in the aforementioned info. She told us that feels “terrible about that,” but she didn’t think anyone would delete TikTok. When we asked her why, she told us that she doesn’t think that anyone knows the dark secrets about TikTok, and that even if we told people they still wouldn’t delete it. 

In short, the Chinese Communist Party collects data on Americans, which includes every Packer student that uses TikTok, every day through tricking American teens into using it. If nothing else is learned from this article, then remember this: TikTok is China’s way of spying on Americans, including Packer students, without sending actual people to do their dirty work. We do it for them.

Antonio “Tony” Mota is currently a junior in the Packer Collegiate Institute and the head of the technical side of the Packer Prism wesbite. He has written for the Prism before and is excited to continue contributing and to start managing the website. In his free time, you can find him hanging out with his friends, playing video games, browsing Reddit memes, or watching Netflix. A fun fact about Tony is that he aims to be trilingual, as he already knows English, Latin, and is beginning to learn Chinese. Tony can be reached at

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