US media is reporting that hundreds of current employees at TikTok and its parent company ByteDance previously worked for Chinese state media publications and that some of them still do. According to an investigation by Forbes:
August 11, 2022 Three hundred current employees at TikTok and its parent company ByteDance previously worked for Chinese state media publications, according to public employee LinkedIn profiles reviewed by Forbes. Twenty-three of these profiles appear to have been created by current ByteDance directors, who manage departments overseeing content partnerships, public affairs, corporate social responsibility and “media cooperation.” Fifteen indicate that current ByteDance employees are also concurrently employed by Chinese state media entities, including Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International and China Central / China Global Television. […] Fifty of the profiles represent employees that work for or on TikTok, including a content strategy manager who was formerly a Chief Correspondent for Xinhua News. The LinkedIn profiles reviewed by Forbes reveal significant connections between TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and the propaganda arm of the Chinese government, which has been investing heavily in using social media to amplify disinformation that serves the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese state media outlets have a large presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but so far, they have been relatively quiet on TikTok.
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ByteDance is a Chinese multinational internet technology company that owns TikTok, a social networking service that has gained significant popularity among young people. The company has been criticized for censorship of content critical of the Chinese Communist Party and accused of advancing Chinese foreign policy aims abroad through the app. In July, Buzz Feed News reported that former employees of ByteDance claimed that the company instructed its staff members to push pro-China messages to Americans in its now-defunct English-language news app, TopBuzz. Bloomberg recently reported that a Chinese government entity responsible for public relations attempted to open a stealth account on TikTok targeting Western audiences with propaganda.
A 2021 NATO study identified Chinese state media outlets Xinhua, China Radio, and China Central / China Global Television as China’s main proxy non-state influence actors abroad. It concluded they could be considered among part of the more wide-reaching united front network. In February 2020, the US designated China’s five foremost news agencies — Xinhua, CGTN, China Radio, China Daily, and The People’s Daily —as foreign government functionaries, subject to similar rules as diplomats stationed in the United States.
For more GIOR coverage of TikTok, go here.