TikTok is an immensely popular social media platform that allows users to create, share, and discover short video clips. However, General Paul Nakasone, Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), warns that America’s youth is playing with a “loaded gun” as they spend more and more time on the app.
The Dangers of TikTok
TikTok’s explosive growth since its debut in 2017 has led to a staggering one billion users worldwide, with an estimated 100 million in the US alone. However, its unique ownership by Chinese company Bytedance has raised concerns about national security.
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) potential control over TikTok’s algorithm, vast databases of user data, and widespread availability on millions of devices raises the stakes for espionage and influence operations against Americans. As FBI Director Christopher Wray noted at a US Senate hearing, the CCP’s ownership of TikTok fundamentally cuts across all concerns about the app.
The US government has taken multiple steps to address these concerns, from banning the app on federal devices to proposing legislation giving new powers to identify and stop foreign-based technologies deemed national security risks from entering the country.
The Impact on Young Americans
TikTok’s popularity among young Americans has made it a particularly pressing issue for national security. One-third of Americans reportedly get their news from TikTok, with one-sixth of American youth saying they are constantly on the app.
If the CCP wanted to influence young Americans on a sensitive topic like Taiwan’s independence, TikTok could be used to show videos arguing why Taiwan belongs to China and why the US should not intervene. FBI Director Wray cautioned that it could be difficult to detect such influence operations.
Protecting National Security
While TikTok may be a source of entertainment and news for many young Americans, it poses a significant national security risk. As a result, multiple government agencies have taken action to ban the app on federal devices and potentially even in the US.
It’s essential that young Americans understand the potential risks of using TikTok and take steps to protect their personal data and national security.