TikTok ‘screams’ of US national security concerns, FBI chief warns | US News

The Chinese government could use TikTok to control the data of millions of American users, according to the FBI.

Addressing a US Senate hearing on Wednesday, FBI director Christopher Wray said the Chinese-owned video app “screams” of security concerns.

He told a Senate Intelligence Committee on worldwide threats to US security that China’s government could use the social media platform to control software on millions of devices, as well as drive narratives to divide Americans over Taiwan or other issues.

Expressing concerns that China could feed misinformation to users, Mr Wray said: “Yes, and I would make the point on that last one, in particular, that we’re not sure that we would see many of the outward signs of it happening if it was happening.”

He added: “This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government – and it, to me, it screams out with national security concern.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray (L) shakes hands with Chairman Mark Warner at the committee hearing
FBI director Christopher Wray (L) shakes hands with chairman Mark Warner at the committee hearing

It comes after the White House backed legislation introduced on Tuesday by a dozen senators to give President Biden’s administration new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats.

China-US tensions set to be defining issue of our time

One revealing exchange spelt out the reason that America’s top intelligence officials believe TikTok is a threat to US national security.

The vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Marco Rubio, asked the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, a few simple questions.

Rubio: “Could they use TikTok to control data on millions of users?”

FBI director: “Yes.”

Rubio: “Could they use it to control the software on millions of devices given the opportunity to do so?”

FBI director: “Yes.”

Rubio: “Could they use it to drive narratives like to divide Americans against each other? For example, let’s say China wants to invade Taiwan, to make sure that Americans are seeing videos arguing why Taiwan belongs to China; why the US should not intervene?”

FBI director: “Yes.”

It was one of the numerous moments when the Chinese-owned and globally popular social media app came up at this annual committee hearing on worldwide threats, with testimony from all the leaders of key intelligence community agencies.

The TikTok threat provides a tangible headline and will resonate with millions of TikTok users in America and beyond.

Read Mark Stone’s full analysis here

The endorsement has boosted the efforts by a number of politicians to ban the app, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance and used by more than 100 million Americans.

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What are the issues around TikTok and why are governments getting involved? Sky’s Asia correspondent Helen-Ann Smith explains

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Several other top US intelligence officials including director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA director William Burns and National Security Agency director Paul Nakasone also agreed at the hearing that TikTok posed a threat to US national security.

On Tuesday, Mr Nakasone expressed concern during Senate testimony about TikTok’s data collection and potential to facilitate broad influence operations.

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