US spy chief "cannot rule out" that China would use TikTok to influence US elections

TikTok's potential influence on 2024 US elections raises concerns and what Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said at a hearing.

WASHINGTON – China could use social media app TikTok to influence the 2024 U.S. elections, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a House of Representatives intelligence committee hearing on Tuesday.

Asked by Democratic Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi if China’s ruling Communist Party (CCP) would use TikTok to influence the elections, Haines said: “We cannot rule out that the CCP would use it.”

Krishnamoorthi is also the ranking Democrat on the House select committee on China. He and that panel’s Republican chair Mike Gallagher last week introduced a bill that would give TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance about six months to divest the short video app used by 170 million Americans.

The House is due to vote on Wednesday under fast-track rules that require two-thirds of members to vote “yes” for the measure to win passage.

President Joe Biden said last week he would sign the bill, but the app is popular and getting legislation approved by both the House and Senate in an election year may be difficult.

The 2024 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community released on Monday said TikTok accounts run by a Chinese government propaganda arm reportedly targeted candidates from both political parties during the U.S. midterm election cycle in 2022.

Lawmakers have long voiced concerns that the Chinese government could access user data or influence what people see on the app, including pushing content to stoke U.S. political divisions.

TikTok, which says it has not and would not share U.S. user data with the Chinese government, argues the House bill amounts to a ban. It was unclear if China would approve any sale or if TikTok could be divested in six months.

Also speaking at the House hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray repeated his assessment that TikTok posed national security threats.

“Americans need to ask themselves whether they want to give the Chinese government the ability to control access to their data,” Wray said, adding that it could ultimately “compromise their devices.”

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