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Tipsheet

Chinese-Owned TikTok Admits It Spied On American Journalists

AP Photo

In a startling admission, TikTok revealed that it used its app to spy and track down American journalists, as Republican states look to ban the Chinese-owned app from federal workers’ phones. 

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Employees of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, confessed that they recorded data from not only U.S. journalists, but several users as well. 

The New York Times reported that the employees looked at the IP addresses of the journalists to determine if they were in the same location as employees from the Chinese-owned company who were suspected of leaking confidential information. 

Initially, ByteDance denied any allegations of spying, claiming that they could not monitor U.S. users and that TikTok has never targeted any “members of the U.S. government, activists, public figures or journalists.” 

However, in documents obtained by Forbes, an investigation conducted by an outside law firm found that the Chinese company was planning to use TikTok to monitor the exact locations of specific American citizens.

Forbes reported earlier this week that several of its journalists were included as part of a “covert surveillance campaign.” 

The chief content officer of Forbes, Randall Lane, called it “a direct assault on the idea of a free press and its critical role in a functioning democracy.” 

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The app’s chief internal auditor who led the team involved in the spying, Chris Lepitak, has been fired, while his China-based manager Song Ye has resigned.

This has added mounting pressure on the American government to ban the app from U.S. users. Congress is expected to pass legislation that will ban government employees from downloading TikTok onto their work phones. More than a dozen states, however, have already implemented this ban. 

Earlier this month, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) ordered all state employees and contratcors to cease the use of TikTok on their government-issued phones. 

In a press release, Noem said “South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us…the Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data of the devices that access the platform.” 

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