Beijing-based ByteDance admitted to spying on Forbes journalists to determine the source of leaks inside the company. The "covert surveillance campaign" was launched by the company after multiple stories emerged exposing its deep ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
A report from the magazine stated that ByteDance had "tracked multiple journalists covering the company, improperly gaining access to their IP addresses and user data in an attempt to identify whether they had been in the same locales as ByteDance employees."
Meanwhile, the Verge mentioned that three Forbes journalists who were formerly with BuzzFeed – Emily Baker-White, Katharine Schwab and Richard Nieva – fell victim to the surveillance efforts. Cristina Criddle of the Financial Times was also tracked, according to the outlet.
The resulting investigations led to the termination of ByteDance Chief Internal Auditor Chris Lepitak, who also helmed the surveillance operation. Lepitak's manager Song Ye, who serves as the company's head of audit and risk control, also resigned following the incident. Prior to his resignation, Ye reported directly to ByteDance CEO Rubo Liang.
"I was deeply disappointed when I was notified of the situation … and I'm sure you feel the same," Liang wrote in an internal email. "The public trust that we have spent huge efforts building is going to be significantly undermined by the misconduct of a few individuals. I believe this situation will serve as a lesson to us all."
Erich Andersen, TikTok global general counsel, commented on the development in a separate email. "It is standard practice for companies to have an internal audit group authorized to investigate code of conduct violations," he wrote. "However, in this case, individuals misused their authority to obtain access to TikTok user data."
The revelations by Forbes only bolster claims that TikTok engages in illegal surveillance. Furthermore, its strong links to Beijing and the CCP only backs up allegations of the app being a serious threat to U.S. national security.
Given this, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced legislation seeking to ban TikTok from the United States. His bill – titled Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance; Oppressive Censorship and Influence; and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP) Act – had already received bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, thanks to Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). (Related: US lawmakers unveil bipartisan bill to ban TikTok.)
"The federal government has yet to take a single, meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok," Rubio said in a statement.
"This isn't about creative videos. This is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day. We know it is used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it answers to the People's Republic of China. There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP puppet company. It's time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good."
Meanwhile, Krishnamoorthi warned that TikTok could be used as a tool for espionage and mass surveillance. "It is imperative that we do not allow hostile powers to potentially control social media networks that could be easily weaponized against us," he said in a statement.
Gallagher described TikTok as "digital fentanyl" that is also "collecting troves of their data and censoring their news."
"Allowing the app to continue to operate in the U.S. would be like allowing the U.S.S.R. to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post and major broadcast networks during the Cold War," he remarked. "No country with even a passing interest in its own security would allow this to happen, which is why it's time to ban TikTok and any other CCP-controlled app before it's too late."
Watch this G-Times News report about Sen. Marco Rubio's ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act passing in the Senate.
This video is from the Chinese taking down EVIL CCP channel on Brighteon.com.