The Chinese government is using TikTok to meddle in elections, ODNI says

The Chinese government is using TikTok to expand its global influence operations to promote pro-China narratives and undermine U.S. democracy, according to a report released today from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The annual assessment from ODNI outlines national security threats facing the U.S. in the coming year, and warns that China may attempt to influence this year’s elections through online influence and disinformation campaigns.

ODNI alleges that “TikTok accounts run by a PRC propaganda arm reportedly targeted candidates from both political parties during the U.S. midterm election cycle in 2022,” and that “China is demonstrating a higher degree of sophistication in its influence activity, including experimenting with generative AI.”

The report’s release comes as lawmakers are increasingly concerned about national security threats that TikTok poses. House lawmakers are expected to vote Wednesday on a bill that would force Beijing-based ByteDance to sell TikTok — or it would face a ban from U.S. app stores.

To date, there have been no concrete examples publicly provided showing how TikTok poses a national security threat, though lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee received a closed-door hearing last Thursday from ODNI, the FBI and the Department of Justice.

"We regularly take action against deceptive behavior, including covert influence networks throughout the world, and have been transparent in reporting them publicly," a TikTok spokesperson told POLITICO. "TikTok has protected our platform through more than 150 elections globally and is continuing to work with electoral commissions, experts and fact-checkers to safeguard our community during this historic election year."

Other social media companies, including Meta, have also reported that foreign adversaries like China are using their platforms for influence campaigns.