An OpenAI investor says TikTok is China's 'programmable fentanyl,' a CCP-controlled tool used to manipulate US citizens

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  • TikTok is an "AI-powered subversion weapon" wielded by the CCP, says OpenAI investor Vinod Khosla.

  • Khosla said the platform could be used by China to "surreptitiously manipulate US citizens."

  • "TikTok is a programmable fentanyl whose effects are under the control of the CCP," he said.

Billionaire and early OpenAI backer Vinod Khosla says he supports the forced divestiture of the social media platform TikTok from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

In March, Congress passed a bill to ban TikTok in the US if ByteDance didn't sell its US operations to non-Chinese owners.

"Neither I nor my firm stands to gain or lose anything on the back of this bill's outcome, but I can see how TikTok can be weaponized by a foreign adversary," Khosla wrote in an op-ed for the Financial Times on Tuesday.

In the op-ed, Khosla accused China of perpetuating double standards since Chinese consumers use TikTok's Chinese variant, Douyin. And unlike TikTok, Douyin users aged 14 and below can only be on the platform for just 40 minutes a day.

"Spinach for Chinese kids, fentanyl — another chief export of China's — for ours," Khosla said. "Worse still, TikTok is a programmable fentanyl whose effects are under the control of the CCP."

Getting ByteDance to sell TikTok, Khosla said, is about "preventing a foreign adversary from controlling a platform" that can "surreptitiously manipulate US citizens" and "promote the objectives of the Chinese Communist Party."

"TikTok uses an algorithm powered by advanced artificial intelligence. And it is in the hands of the CCP," Khosla wrote.

"Recognising that TikTok is an AI-powered subversion weapon, we should view it as we do other weapons and materials relevant to our homeland and national defense industry," he continued, adding that the US banned Huawei routers due to similar concerns over national security.

Representatives for the Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider sent outside regular business hours.

Khosla isn't the only person with suspicions about TikTok.

Roughly three in five, or 60% of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2023 said they view the platform as a threat to national security.

It probably doesn't help that Chinese propaganda actors have been accused of using TikTok to influence US elections.

The US intelligence community alleged in its annual threat assessment report published in March that China's propaganda arm used TikTok accounts to target candidates from the GOP and Democratic Party during the 2022 midterm elections.

Representatives for TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI.

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