TikTok could open the door for Chinese election interference, senators warn
No one knows if social media phenomenon TikTok could allow China to meddle in the 2020 election, similar to Russia's attacks in the last presidential campaign. But two senators who are on the opposite sides of almost every issue want to find out.
The Chinese-owned video sharing app is rapidly increasing in popularity worldwide, especially among teenagers. It has been downloaded more than 110 million times in the United States alone. And just two weeks ago it said it was working to steer clear of the next election by banning all political advertising from its site.
Nonetheless, it has now become "is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore" in the view of the two senators, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and conservative Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
"The platform is also a potential target of foreign influence campaigns like those carried out during the 20I6 election on U.S.-based social media platforms," the pair wrote in a letter this week to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.
Cotton and Schumer called on the intelligence community to investigate what "national security risks," if any, are posed by TikTok and other Chinese-based content platforms and report those findings to Congress.
Despite TikTok's decision to keep all political candidate or issue advertising off its platform during the 2020 election cycle, there are other avenues that could allow for Chinese influence like the disinformation campaigns employed by Russia in 2016 on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The senators questioned TikTok's terms of service, saying the app collects a wide array of data, including information about a user's location, that could be accessed by the Chinese government and used in efforts to compromise the 2020 election.Launched just two years ago by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, TikTok has created a global sensation by permitting users to share short videos. In a statement Thursday, the company asserted its independence from the government in Beijing, declared that all its U.S. users' data is stored in the United States and so is not "subject to Chinese law," and said it has "never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked."
Efforts to fend off election hackers in 2020 and beyond have revolved around protecting ballot equipment and the databases of registered voters. Little attention has been focused on the vendors and their employees.
But the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice is proposing that the vendors who make election equipment and related systems be subjected to heightened oversight and vetting, much like defense contractors or others involved in national security.
"There is almost no federal regulation of the vendors that design and maintain the systems that allow us to determine who can vote, how they vote, or how their votes are counted and reported," according to a new report from the nonpartisan policy institute.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has a message for corporations: The country is in trouble, so get off your butt.
The foundation made its pitch to the business community in a newly published white paper chronicling the sorry state of civics education, the role that corporations can play in healing a divided country and why it should all matter to businesses.
The health of civics education is "quite bleak," foundation President Carolyn Cawley said in an introduction to the paper, which she called "the first step in our efforts to make the business case for civics."
With the support and buy-in of the private sector, the foundation believes, the country stands a better chance at improving civic education and engagement, which in turn could heal the in-fighting, distrust and misinformation undermining the health of the country and well-being of corporate America.