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China asked TikTok for stealth account where it could spread propaganda

China asked TikTok for STEALTH account where it could spread propaganda in the West – but senior staff at the company refused

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The Chinese government tried to create a ‘stealth account’ on TikTok targeting Western audiences with pro-China propaganda, but company executives pushed back, according to a new report.

The April 2020 request from a Chinese government entity responsible for public relations met with resistance from TikTok executives in the West, according to a Bloomberg report on Friday.

TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has struggled to distance itself from allegations of Chinese state influence.

A spokesperson for TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Friday afternoon.

The Chinese government tried to create a ‘stealth account’ on TikTok targeting Western audiences with pro-China propaganda, according to a new report

According to Bloomberg, a TikTok employee flagged a ‘Chinese government entity that’s interested in joining TikTok but would not want to be openly seen as a government account as the main purpose is for promoting content that showcase the best side of China (some sort of propaganda).’ 

TikTok executives discussed the request, which they described in internal messages as ‘sensitive,’ and ultimately rejected it.

The executives involved in the decision included Elizabeth Kanter, TikTok’s head of government relations for the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Israel, and US-based Erich Andersen, global head of corporate affairs and general counsel.

A TikTok spokeswoman downplayed the incident to Bloomberg, describing it as an informal request from a friend of an employee.

‘We declined to offer support for this request, as we believed the creation of such an account would violate our Community Guidelines,’ the spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said that TikTok has rules against ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior,’ in which accounts conceal their true identity to exert influence or sway public opinion.

Elizabeth Kanter (left), TikTok’s head of government relations for the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Israel, and US-based Erich Andersen (right), global head of corporate affairs and general counsel were among the execs who pushed back on the request

However, TikTok does allow verified government accounts to share content on the platform, including the Chinese embassy to the US, which shares clips of Chinese athletes and cultural attractions alongside state-sanctioned news videos. 

An handful of world leaders also have verified TikTok accounts, including the presidents of France and El Salvador.

The Chinese request for a ‘stealth account’ occurred during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when China was under harsh global scrutiny over the origin and handling of the earliest outbreak.

Later in 2020, then-President Donald Trump attempted to ban TikTok in the United States if ByteDance did not sell or spin off the social media platform. 

In an executive order, Trump claimed there was ‘credible evidence’ that led him to believe that ByteDance ‘might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.’ 

Though TikTok considered spinning off the American portion of its business, Trump’s order became hung up in court challenges, and was ultimately revoked by President Joe Biden. 

On June 28, Brendan Carr, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), posted on Twitter urging Apple and Google to remove TikTok ‘from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices

TikTok has more than 1 billion global users, and has quickly emerged as a competitor to legacy social media platforms such as Facebook. 

TikTok has frequently denied any association with or undue influence from China’s government, but has faced concerns about data privacy.

To address these concerns, TikTok said earlier this year that it migrated the information of its US users to servers at Oracle, an American company. 

Last month, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission urged the CEOs of Apple and Google to kick TikTok out of their app stores.

Brendan Carr, the FCC commissioner, said in a letter to the CEOs, dated June 24 and sent on FCC letterhead, that video-sharing app TikTok has collected vast troves of sensitive data about US users that could be accessed by ByteDance staff in Beijing.

A TikTok spokeswoman said at the time the company’s engineers in locations outside of the United States, including China, can be granted access to US user data ‘on an as-needed basis’ and under ‘strict controls.’ 

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