TikTok Spreads ‘Fact Sheet’ Downplaying Reported Ties To CCP, Alleged Surveillance Of Americans

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James Lynch Contributor
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TikTok spread a “fact sheet” about its China-based parent company ByteDance downplaying the company’s reported ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and alleged surveillance of American TikTok users.

The document, first obtained by Punchbowl News, pairs “myths” about TikTok and ByteDance with “facts” about the company’s relationship with China. The sheet was passed around on Thursday ahead of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s testimony in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the outlet reported. (RELATED: TikTok’s Security Protocols Won’t Prevent China From Spying On American Users, Analysts Warn)

TikTok lists its Chinese ownership as a myth on the sheet and discloses that 60% of the firm is owned by global investors. It also discloses the 20% stake held by ByteDance’s Chinese founder, who they claim is a private individual without connections to “state or government” entities. ByteDance was founded by Zhang Yiming, an individual described by the Justice Department as a “mouthpiece” for the CCP in a 2020 legal filing. The fact sheet says the Chinese government has an ownership stake in ByteDance subsidiary Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, which they claim is standard operating procedure for businesses operating in China.

TikTok claims China does not currently have any seats on ByteDance’s board of directors, but corporate records obtained by The Information indicate China previously took a board seat in 2021. (RELATED: China Comes Out Against Forced Sale Of TikTok As Pressure Mounts)

TikTok rejects claims about the company censoring and manipulating content on behalf of the Chinese government. However, documents obtained by The Guardian in 2019 revealed TikTok instructed its content moderators to censor videos about Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence and outlawed religious group Falun Gong. The platform said in 2021 it stopped content moderation policy from being directed from within China, per Business Insider.

The sheet further emphasizes that TikTok is headquartered outside of China, but does not mention ByteDance’s four locations in China, including a Beijing location described by The Guardian as its headquarters in 2019. The 2020 legal filing also described Beijing as the company’s headquarters.

ByteDance has reportedly hired hundreds of employees with ties to the CCP propaganda, Forbes reported. TikTok’s senior leadership team is based in Singapore, the U.S., and Ireland, the fact sheet states.

The company denies collecting a significant amount of sensitive user data and highlights Project Texas, TikTok’s $1.5 billion plan to create a U.S. subsidiary to store American user data. Project Texas is being run by Oracle Corp and an independent board of national security professionals, and it was devised as part of TikTok’s negotiations with the Biden administration to address national security concerns.

American user data was allegedly accessed by China-based employees on multiple occasions with the intent to monitor American citizens such as journalist Emily Baker White, Forbes reported. TikTok acknowledged surveilling journalists on the fact sheet and says the incident was a “misguided effort” to see if employees were leaking information from inside the company. ByteDance fired multiple employees after an internal review of the incident, the New York Times reported. The FBI and Department of Justice have opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged monitoring of U.S. users, a development omitted from the fact sheet.

TikTok denies its addictiveness for American teenagers, who spent an average of 107 minutes per day on the platform, one survey found.