ByteDance, a company of Chinese origin and the parent organization behind the widely used social media app TikTok, is presently being probed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice for purportedly conducting surveillance on journalists from the United States.
ByteDance used TikTok to track my location — and the locations of two of my colleagues — to try to find our sources. We reported on this back in October, but kept things vague to protect sources. Today ByteDance admitted it, so we can say much more:https://t.co/ZFdU5BVC8H
— Emily Baker-White (@ebakerwhite) December 22, 2022
The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and the DOJ Fraud Section have issued subpoenas to ByteDance, requesting information related to the attempts made by its employees to obtain the location and private details of American journalists using TikTok. The FBI is also conducting interviews as part of its investigation into this issue.
FBI, DOJ Investigating TikTok Parent Over Surveillance Of Americans: REPORT https://t.co/URawXBL3do
— US Burning (@UsBurning) March 17, 2023
As per reports, last year, employees of ByteDance utilized data from TikTok to monitor the whereabouts of journalists who were covering the company and managed to obtain their IP addresses to determine whether they were in proximity to ByteDance employees. Following this, the company acknowledged the surveillance and terminated the employees responsible for it.
To maintain ownership of TikTok, ByteDance had committed to investing $1.5 billion in storing American users' data within the U.S., managed by an American team under the oversight of the U.S. government. Nonetheless, the company's confession that its workers conducted surveillance on American journalists contradicts the assurances it gave to the government in that regard. Consequently, in order to keep doing business in the United States, TikTok is thinking about cutting ties with ByteDance because of concerns about national security caused by the company's ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
The investigation into ByteDance for allegedly spying on American journalists is worrying, particularly given the company's commitments to the U.S. government not to engage in such activities. This occurrence serves as a reminder of the significance of being cautious of Chinese firms and their potential connections to the Chinese Communist Party. It also emphasizes the necessity for greater oversight of social media platforms such as TikTok to safeguard the privacy and safety of Americans.