Three hundred current employees of TikTok and its parent company ByteDance previously worked for Chinese state media publications, according to LinkedIn profiles of public employees reviewed by Forbes.
Twenty-three of those profiles appear to have been created by current directors of ByteDance, who run departments overseeing content partnerships, public affairs, corporate social responsibility, and “media cooperation.”
Fifteen say current ByteDance employees are also concurrently employed by Chinese state media entities, including Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International and China Central/China Global Television. (These organizations were among those designated by the State Department as “officials of foreign governments” in 2020.)
Fifty of the profiles represent employees who work for or on TikTok, including a content strategy manager who previously served as chief correspondent for Xinhua News.
LinkedIn profiles reviewed by Forbes reveal significant ties between TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and the propaganda arm of the Chinese government, which has invested heavily in using social media to amplify disinformation that serves the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese state media has a large presence on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but so far has been relatively quiet on TikTok.
ByteDance and TikTok have not disputed that the 300 LinkedIn profiles represent current employees or denied their ties to Chinese state media. None of the state media named in this story responded to a request for comment, according to Forbes.
Jennifer Banks, spokesperson for ByteDance, said ByteDance makes “hiring decisions based solely on an individual’s professional ability to do the job.” For our companies in the Chinese market, this includes people who have previously worked in government positions or in state media in China. Outside of China, employees also bring experience in government, public policy and media organizations from dozens of markets. »
In response to the 15 profiles that show ByteDance employees concurrently employed by Chinese state media, she added that ByteDance “does not allow employees to engage in side or part-time jobs, or any outside business activity, which would result in a conflict of interest”.
People spend more time on TikTok today than on any other app. In recent months, the app has been hailed as a powerful driver of American culture and has quickly established itself as a vital player in our electoral and civic discourse.
LinkedIn profiles raise new concerns that China could use TikTok’s broad cultural influence in the United States for its own purposes, a fear that has led a cohort of American politicians, including former President Donald Trump, to ask for the app to be banned in 2019.
Meanwhile, citing that TiktTok provides user data to the Chinese government, the UK parliament has shut down its TikTok account, according to media reports.
Britain’s parliament has shut down its TikTok account after some China-sanctioned MPs raised data security concerns, Politico reported. Just six days after the account was opened, parliamentary authorities confirmed that they had deactivated the social media profile.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)