A LinkedIn profile analysis found that “three hundred current employees at TikTok and its parent company ByteDance previously worked for Chinese state media publications.”
According to Forbes, they said that “twenty-three of these profiles appear to have been created by current ByteDance directors, who manage departments overseeing content partnerships, public affairs, corporate social responsibility and media cooperation:"
Fifteen indicate that current ByteDance employees are also concurrently employed by Chinese state media entities, including Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International and China Central / China Global Television. (These organizations were among those designated by the State Department as “foreign government functionaries” in 2020.)
Fifty of the profiles represent employees that work for or on TikTok, including a content strategy manager who was formerly a Chief Correspondent for Xinhua News.
“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funning videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr wrote. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”
Forbes says that “TikTok has come under increased scrutiny as U.S. officials continue to warn of the national security threat the app poses. In June called on the CEOs of Google and Apple to remove the app from their stores, citing reports that suggest the app harvests swaths of sensitive data.”
ByteDance spokesperson Jennifer Banks told Forbes that hiring is decided “purely on an individual’s professional capability to do the job.”
“For our China-market businesses, that includes people who have previously worked in government or state media positions in China,” she said. “Outside of China, employees also bring experience in government, public policy, and media organizations from dozens of markets.”
Banks said that ByteDance “does not allow employees to hold second or part-time jobs or any outside business activity” in response to the 15 profiles of concurrent ByteDance-Chinese state media employees, saying that it would “cause a conflict of interest.”
The report said that, “TikTok recently admitted that employees outside the U.S. could access user information, but insisted that such access required 'robust cybersecurity protocols and authorization' from its U.S.” security team.
Leaked internal documents from TikTok also showed that the company encouraged employees to “downplay the China association” to help with growing criticism.