In the latest TikTok vs White House saga, senior intelligence officials explain to US lawmakers exactly how TikTok could pose a threat to national security.
Director of US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Christopher Wray spoke about the Chinese-owned app at a US Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday.
Wray told the committee that the video-sharing app "screams" national security danger and could be used to control data on millions of American users.
"This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government - and it, to me, it screams out with national security concerns," Wray said.
Republican Senator for Florida and Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio presented Wray with a number of questions regarding the app and its potential harm.
Lawmakers are worried the Chinese government could force ByteDance – the Chinese company that owns TikTok – to turn over the massive amounts of data the app collects on its American users.
“They can collect our data, manipulate information, and poison and feed garbage into the minds of people,” Rubio stated during the questioning.
Wray confirmed that if given access, the Chinese government could use TikTok to control software on millions of devices as well as drive narratives to divide Americans over major political issues, such as the possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
“For example, let’s say China wants to invade Taiwan, [could it] make sure Americans are seeing videos arguing why Taiwan belongs to China, and why the US should not intervene?” Rubio asked Wray, who said China could use the app to feed propaganda to US users without them realizing it.
"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," Wray said.
“The most fundamental piece that cuts across every one of those risks and threats you mention, that Americans need to understand, is something that is very sacred in our country, the difference between the public sector and the private sector – that’s a line that is non-existent in the way the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] operates,” Wray said.
The FBI chief said the app's popularity should not be factored into the government's decision on whether or not to ban it.
"TikTok has never, and will never, be approved at the FBI," Wray noted.
Tuesday, the White House backed senate legislation to give President Joe Biden's administration new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats.
Other intelligence officials who spoke out against TikTok at the hearing included the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, and CIA head William Burns.
TikTok is currently used by an estimated 100 million Americans.
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