Top Democrat, Republican Intel Senators Blast TikTok: ‘The Most Powerful Propaganda Tool Ever’

Top Democrat and Republican senators warned over the weekend that TikTok, the social media app allegedly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, is “the most powerful propaganda tool” that officials have ever seen.

The remarks from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ranking Member Marco Rubio (R-FL) on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” come as the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill this week that would force ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, to divest its ownership in the company or it will be banned in the U.S.

Warner slammed President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign for joining TikTok, saying it sent “a pretty darn mixed message.”

Warner warned that TikTok poses a threat to the U.S. by collecting Americans’ data and manipulating what they see to turn them against each other.

“If you don’t think the Chinese Communist Party can twist that algorithm to make it the news that they see reflective of their views, then I don’t think you appreciate the nature of the threat,” Warner said. “Would the United States ever allow China to buy CBS? I don’t think they would. And we might have slightly different ways on how we go at this, but we think this is a national security issue.”

Rubio said people get so hooked on TikTok because its algorithm has a powerful “recommender engine, which is one of the best in the world.”

“That is owned by ByteDance. Under Chinese law, ByteDance must own it,” Rubio said. “And the only way that that recommender engine works is if they have access to the data. So it doesn’t matter who you sell TikTok to, where they’re headquartered, doesn’t even matter where they stored the data. As long as ByteDance engineers in China have access to the algorithm — have access to that data — control the algorithm, they have to have access to American data to make it work. And that’s what we need to confront. That’s the reality here.”

Warner concluded in his warning: “Manipulating that algorithm can mean what kind of information you’re going to see. And if you don’t think that could be used as the most powerful propaganda tool ever, then I don’t think you appreciate the threat.”

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