A new report by Forbes claims that ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, has employed 300 workers who have previously worked for China's state-run media organizations, and 15 of them work for both.
“Fifteen indicate that 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,” the report said. The US government has designated these media organizations as “foreign government functionaries.”
A spokesperson for ByteDance insisted that its hiring decisions are “purely on an individual's professional capability to do the job.”
“For our China-market businesses, that includes people who have previously worked in government or state media positions in China,” the spokesperson said. “Outside of China, employees also bring experience in government, public policy, and media organizations from dozens of markets.”
Responding to a question about the 15 people who seem to be working at both ByteDance and state-run outlets, they said that the company “does not allow employees to hold second or part-time jobs or any outside business activity” because there would be a “conflict of interest.”
TikTok has been under scrutiny in the US in recent years, with several government officials and lawmakers warning about the danger it causes. The Trump administration considered banning it entirely.
In June, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr called on Apple and Google to remove it from their app stores because of the amount of data it collects.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That's the sheep's clothing,” Carr wrote. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
TikTok recently admitted that China-based employees have access to US users' data but attempted to downplay it by saying its access requires “robust cybersecurity protocols and authorization” from its US-based security team.