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TikTok: the FBI is concerned about possible manipulation of content by China


The sling continues against the TikTok application in the United States. In recent days, it is the director of the FBI, himself, who has publicly expressed his concerns on the Chinese social network. The American authorities fear a hijacking of the platform for the purpose of interference.

The targeted recommendation algorithm

ByteDance, the parent company of the application, is accused by the Americans of maintaining links with the Chinese authorities. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s concerns revolve around the network’s recommendation algorithm. The program, developed by the Chinese firm, could be hijacked by Beijing, “which would allow them to manipulate the content and, if they choose, use it for influence operations”assured Chris Wray, director of the FBI relayed by the AP agency, during a speech during an ordinary public visit to a University of Michigan on Friday, December 2.

The TikTok app and its recommendations are “in the hands of a government that does not share our values ​​and whose mission is far removed from what is in the interest of the United States. That should concern us”worried the manager.

The risk of interference

The growing use of the social network in the United States, especially among the youngest populations, is another factor of concern. US authorities fear micro changes to the platform’s recommendation system. The Chinese giant could, for example, choose to exhibit more politicized videos than others. The United States would then witness real interference by a foreign power in its internal policy. For the time being, no form of propaganda or attempt at influence has been publicly detected.

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At the same time, TikTok and US authorities are trying to establish an agreement to satisfy US national security requirements. “While we cannot comment on the details of these confidential discussions, we are confident that we are on track to fully satisfy all reasonable national security concerns of the United States and have already made significant progress toward implementation of these solutions”TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said in a statement to AP.

Data transfer to China?

Chris Wray’s concerns about TikTok come after several weeks of debate over the data security at the heart of the app. Contrary to what ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, publicly claimed, employees had access to user data from China. Opacity in the processing of user information publicly denounced in several countries.

At the beginning of November, the Chinese firm had finally recognized the transfers of data to the Middle Kingdom. “We allow certain employees of our group located in Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and the United States to access, remotely, the data of TikTok users”the company then confirmed in a blog post.

Recently, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem banned the installation of TikTok on phones in the state. “We will not participate in intelligence gathering for China, a nation that hates America”she said publicly.



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