Ongoing Chinese Influence Operations Could Strengthen the Case for a TikTok Ban

TikTok’s Popularity and Potential for Harm

TikTok has over 150 million US users who spend an increasing amount of time on the app. However, concerns around its potential for harm continue to rise, leading to ongoing discussions about whether the app should be banned or not. Cybersecurity experts have raised significant concerns about the app, and various officials from different nations also share their worries.

China’s Infiltration into US-based Networks

China-based groups have been infiltrating US-based networks to gather information, distribute propaganda, and manipulate opinion. Microsoft recently reported that the Chinese state-sponsored group ‚Volt Tycoon‘ has performed several operations designed to disrupt critical communication infrastructure between the US and Asia for future crises.

According to Microsoft, Volt Typhoon has been active since mid-2021 and has targeted critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere in the United States. The threat actor aims to perform espionage and maintain access without being detected. Google has also removed tens of thousands of YouTube channels over the past year linked to another Chinese-backed threat actor called ‚Dragonbridge,‘ which spreads pro-China propaganda.

Twitter and Facebook regularly address Chinese-backed campaigns designed to control and influence discussions within each app. Given the scope of efforts to mitigate such operations, it’s safe to assume that TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, could be a vector for similar actions. ByteDance has many Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-aligned staff, and the company has itself tried to use TikTok data for surveillance purposes on US journalists.

Concerns About TikTok’s Operational Approaches

TikTok has denied any of these accusations and claims that it will soon silo off all US user data from China-based staff. However, Oracle, its key partner in this project, has refuted the claim. Recent reports have also suggested that TikTok staff has been sharing user information in internal messaging systems, which could be infiltrated.

TikTok’s teams have a different view on optimal data security than many western cybersecurity experts. The reports reflect that TikTok is indeed beholden to the Chinese Government, and ByteDance is already following its orders. China-based influence operations in other apps strengthen the case for a TikTok ban, particularly as China continues to escalate tensions with neighboring regions and threatens to challenge the US on different fronts.

Considering a TikTok Ban

While there are counter-arguments that other apps also track and utilize similar user data, no geopolitical adversarialism exists within US-based organizations. Meta or Twitter never manipulate data like TikTok, as ByteDance seems to have a different view on this element than US companies.

Experts would be much more informed about the potential for harm, and personal bias should be considered when advocating for TikTok to remain in operation. CFIUS is still deliberating a US ban, and TikTok is still working to address all concerns. Collaborative solutions could still be established. However, don’t be surprised if the White House announces a ban in the future.


TikTok’s ongoing Chinese influence operations could strengthen the argument for a TikTok ban in the US. Chinese-based groups have infiltrated US-based networks to manipulate opinion and gather information, while ByteDance seems to be beholden to the Chinese government. Reports suggest that TikTok may be a tool for illicit schemes, and cybersecurity experts are worried about its potential for harm. While there are counter-arguments, it’s essential to consider personal bias and experts‘ opinions before advocating for TikTok to remain in operation.