Lawmakers are expressing concerns that the U.S. Army is using the massively popular Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok to recruit young people into the military. The Army launched a social media blitz this summer on several social media platforms, including TikTok, as part of its recruitment effort. According to data released by the company earlier this year roughly 60 percent of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the United States are between the ages of 16 and 24.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote a letter to U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy outlining those concerns. He wrote: “While I recognize that the Army must adapt its recruiting techniques in order to attract young Americans to serve, I urge you to assess the potential national security risks posed by China-owned technology companies before choosing to utilize certain platforms. Schumer also inquired whether the Army had consulted with the intelligence community about potential security risks and whether an analysis had been performed to determine whether TikTok was an ideal recruitment forum.
TikTok is suspect due to its close ties to the Chinese government. Critics claim China could collect reams of data on U.S. users using the app. TikTok has pushed back against the allegations, claiming that its data centers for its U.S. users are located outside of China and not subject to Chinese law. TikTok previously said, “We are not influenced by any foreign government, including the Chinese government; TikTok does not operate in China, nor do we have any intention of doing so in the future.”
The questions come at a time of mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade and the acquisition of technology. In addition to congressional inquiries about the security of the personal data of U.S. citizens who use the platform, TikTok parent company ByteDance is facing a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The committee is seeking information on whether the company’s acquisition of social media app Musical.ly will pose a national security risk.