The Daily Caller News Foundation Laurel Duggan on March 22, 2023
Major American media outlets that receive funding from TikTok have emphasized the app’s popularity and expressed skepticism about the app posing a potential national security risk in their coverage of efforts to ban TikTok, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found.
TikTok bought ads in The New York Times and Washington Post, including a four-page NYT ad with a QR code linking readers to a website boasting of the company’s security investments, and sponsored a popular Axios newsletter, according to Ad Age. The purchases were part of a PR blitz from TikTok ahead of a Thursday congressional hearing as the U.S. considers banning the app.
Axios published an article Wednesday, the day before TikTok CEO Shou Chew is scheduled to testify before Congress, emphasizing the app’s popularity. The article claimed TikTok’s massive popularity made it difficult for lawmakers to argue that its national security risks outweigh the desires of the app’s millions of American users.
A March 10 Washington Post article referred to concerns about TikTok’s algorithm and user data being vulnerable to propaganda and espionage as “speculation.” A Tuesday article in the Post claimed repeatedly that the U.S. government had provided no evidence to support its concerns about the Chinese spying threat.
A Tuesday New York Times article claimed the threat from TikTok was “largely theoretical” and acknowledged “a handful of cases of abuse,” but said the Biden administration hadn’t presented sufficient evidence of a systemic effort to advance the goals of the Chinese government.
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is under investigation by the FBI after ByteDance employees used TikTok data last year to track the location of journalists who were reporting on the company; ByteDance has acknowledged the surveillance and condemned the employees responsible for it. TikTok keeps an internal mapping tool of users’ personally identifiable information, including live updates on U.S. users, which employees jokingly call “NSA-to-go,” according to Forbes.
Republican Texas Rep. Michael McCaul introduced legislation in February that would modify the Berman amendment to the International Emergency Powers Act, which limits the president’s authority to regulate certain informational material, in order to allow President Joe Biden to ban TikTok. The White House banned TikTok from government devices in January, and the Treasury Deparment has threatened to ban the app if ByteDance doesn’t divest its shares.
The NYT, the Post, Axios and TikTok did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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