FBI Director Chris Wray stunned U.S. senators during a Wednesday hearing when he revealed that the Chinese Communist Party has the ability to take control of “millions” of Americans’ phones through the wildly popular TikTok app.
“If you look at the Chinese government’s gobbling up of information and data, and then the use of AI and other tools, ultimately supercomputing, things like that, to marshal all that data to conduct targeting for espionage, targeting for IP theft, targeting for the all the things that I and others on this panel have been calling out about the Chinese government,” Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Data is the coin of the realm, those who have the best information have the power and that’s what that enables them to do.”
Wray noted that China’s Equifax hack allowed them to illegally obtain through theft the Personal Identifiable Information (PII) of nearly half the population of the United States.
“So it’s the control of the data to conduct all sorts of big data operations,” he said. “It’s the control of the recommendation algorithm, which allows them to conduct influence operations. It’s the control of the software, which allows them to then have access to millions of devices. So you put all those three things together, and again, come back to the starting point, which is, this is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government and it to me screams out with national security concerns.”
In response to a line of questioning from ranking member Marco Rubio (R-FL), Wray said that communist China can use TikTok to control data on millions of users, to control the software on millions of devices, and that they can use it to drive narratives to divide Americans against each other.
Wray then warned that not only can China use TikTok to control narratives in the U.S., but also that U.S. officials are “not sure that we would see many of the outward signs of it happening if it was happening.”
“And I think the most fundamental piece that cuts across every one of those risks and threats that you mentioned that I think Americans need to understand is that something that’s very sacred in our country, that difference between the private sector and the public sector, that’s a line that is non existent in the way that CCP operates,” Wray said.
Rubio then noted the differences in what users in China see on TikTok as opposed to what users in the U.S. see on TikTok. “For example, in the U.S. kids are being encouraged to choke themselves out, we’ve had kids die,” Rubio noted. “In China, they’re encouraged to focus on math and science and building the country.”
Wray agreed with Rubio’s assessment that the “poison” that China is pumping into the feeds of U.S. users is one of the many ways that China is using the app to weaken and damage the U.S.