TikTok Could Cause ‘Absolute Chaos’ in 2024 Election: Rep. Gallagher

‘Imagine all the crazy things that could trend on TikTok prior to the election, that could just wreak total havoc in our democracy,’ Mr. Gallagher said.
TikTok Could Cause ‘Absolute Chaos’ in 2024 Election: Rep. Gallagher
The TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Andrew Thornebrooke
11/29/2023
Updated:
11/30/2023
0:00

Communist China could leverage indirect control over social media company TikTok to sow discord and disinformation during the 2024 presidential election, according to one congressman.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a single-party state, could use TikTok to spread propaganda throughout the United States and undermine democratic processes, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said.

“My view is that TikTok has become a key tool in the CCP’s toolbox when it comes to discourse power,” he said during a Nov. 29 press call.

“There’s no question in my mind that the app could be weaponized as a platform for influencing foreign societies.”

Mr. Gallagher’s warning follows the publication of a report by Microsoft in September that found that China-based agents used artificial intelligence to impersonate U.S. voters and spread disinformation during the 2022 midterm elections.
The report suggested that the CCP conducted the covert influence operation to mimic U.S. voters from across the political spectrum and create controversy along racial, economic, and ideological lines.

TikTok Part of CCP’s ‘Magic Weapon’ Against US

Mr. Gallagher acknowledged that much of social media had become a “cesspool” of divisive content. Still, he said that TikTok was “fundamentally different” because it’s owned by the China-based ByteDance, which is “beholden to the CCP.”

“Via ByteDance, which is a CCP-controlled company, the app could be used as a massive, massive disinformation and propaganda tool,” he said.

Mr. Gallagher, who serves as the chair for the House Select Committee on the CCP, noted that a letter written by Osama Bin Laden about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks recently went viral on TikTok, where it spurred anti-American sentiment among some users.

“Heading into an election, if most people under the age of 30 are getting their news from TikTok, it can create absolute chaos,” Mr. Gallagher said.

“Imagine all the crazy things that could trend on TikTok prior to the election that could just wreak total havoc in our democracy.”

Mr. Gallagher noted a recent poll from Harvard University that found that more than half of Americans aged 18 to 24 believe that the Hamas terrorist group was justified in murdering more than 1,200 women and children during its attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
Some 32 percent of Americans in the 18–29 age group regularly get their news from TikTok, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center. That means the number of adults in that group getting news from the company has nearly doubled since 2020.

“This is the dominant media platform in America, and they could sort of influence what Americans think is true,” Mr. Gallagher said.

TikTok previously acknowledged its censoring and “heating” of content at the request of the CCP. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew also testified earlier in the year that the company still stores some Americans’ data on overseas servers, where the CCP can legally seize it.

This is because ByteDance is subject to CCP laws that require all data controlled by Chinese companies to be surrendered to the regime upon request. ByteDance also maintains a CCP committee as part of its corporate structure, which is also required by Chinese law.

As such, a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers has claimed that TikTok is part of the CCP’s wider strategy to wage a nonmilitary campaign of asymmetric warfare against the United States.
Mr. Gallagher linked TikTok to the CCP’s propaganda-focused United Front Work Department, which communist leader Xi Jinping has described as a “magic weapon” on the “smokeless battlefield” of information warfare.

“[Xi has] clearly articulated that the smokeless battlefield, as he calls it, is the most important in this competition,” Mr. Gallagher said.

To that end, Mr. Gallagher said that Congress was working on a new bipartisan framework to address “cross-border data flows” and limit adversarial nations’ ability to seize and leverage Americans’ data.

“This isn’t just a TikTok issue,” Mr. Gallagher said. “The issue is foreign adversary control of social media and technology companies in America.”

TikTok didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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