President Joe Biden’s State Department was lukewarm in its concern about Chinese election influence in last month’s midterms during a press briefing Wednesday.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used a number of Tiktok accounts to spread divisive content and disinformation, disproportionately favoring Democrats, to millions of viewers before the midterms, according to Forbes. The actions closely mirrored those of Russia during the 2016 election, when Kremlin-linked operatives used Facebook to try to sway American voters.
.@Dylan_Housman on the CCP and TikTok: “Do you trust that they’re not doing anything nefarious with the data they are presumably gathering on millions of Americans?
State Dept. Spox: “I would not go that far.” pic.twitter.com/39piur9NCc
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) December 7, 2022
State Department Spokesman Ned Price did not specifically condemn Chinese election interference during Wednesday’s press briefing. Instead, when the topic of the Forbes report was brought up, he deferred to the Office of the Director Of National Intelligence, which is in the process of investigating potential interference in the 2022 elections but has not yet released its report.
He went on to point to an October PSA published jointly by the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) which outlined “information manipulation tactics” that foreign actors could use to try to influence the election. The PSA covers a number of tactics that could be used to manipulate voters and offers recommendations to curb their influence, but does not mention specific countries that may engage in said behavior.
Like with Russia, it’s unclear how much influence the Chinese operation actually had on election outcomes. Russia’s efforts amounted to, at times, ham-fisted memes and sloppy catchphrases shared across Facebook pages with little reach. While the Chinese Tiktok videos garnered millions of views, some of them were formatted more like news videos than directly editorialized content, although some of the latter was present as well.
Despite the fact that China’s campaign seemingly went some steps further than Russia’s, by utilizing a state-owned platform to spread the information and reaching millions of viewers, Price’s response Wednesday was far more tepid than the State Department’s past actions against Russia for similar behavior.
The Obama administration sanctioned Russia for interference in the 2016 election, and the Biden administration did the same after 2020. Biden also expelled 10 Russian diplomats due to election interference and hacking in 2021. (RELATED: Larry Hogan Announces Executive Actions Against Tiktok, Other Chinese Companies)
As for Tiktok, Price would not go into detail on whether the administration was banning the application, referring questions on that to the Commerce Department. He did say he “would not go that far” as to trust the CCP with user data collected from Americans through the app.