CAUGHT? DOJ Probes TikTok Parent Company for Exploiting Journalists’ Data

March 17th, 2023 3:27 PM

ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, finds itself in more turmoil as a new report suggests that the FBI and Justice Department are investigating the communist Chinese government-tied company’s efforts to spy on U.S.-based journalists.

Forbes magazine reported on Mar. 16 that the DOJ Criminal Division, Fraud Section is working with the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia to subpoena information on how ByteDance used TikTok to unilaterally gain journalists’ locations and other consumers' private information.

The outlet cited two sources to conclude that the “FBI has been conducting interviews related to the surveillance.” ByteDance, in typical gaslighting fashion, attempted to gaslight people by making it seem like the incident involved only a few rogue employees rather than the company itself:

“‘We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved, and they are no longer employed at ByteDance. Our internal investigation is still ongoing, and we will cooperate with any official investigations when brought to us.’”

This new information comes amid scathing reports that the Treasury’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) demanded that TikTok divest from its parent company after two years of ongoing negotiations.

ByteDance reportedly fired four employees who accessed the personal information, including the locations, of two U.S.-based journalists. 

This would not be the first time the Chinese-backed ByteDance used TikTok to infiltrate American data. Earlier this week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, warning of a whistleblower’s testimony detailing how U.S. consumers’ data could be easily accessed by members of the Chinese Communist Party “known to be on ByteDance’s payroll.”

ByteDance, per a Mar. 9 report by Politico, spent over $13 million on “lobbying since 2019 and has hired several dozen lobbyists” in order to save face. Similarly, TikTok recently hired a public relations firm with ties to President Joe Biden as it attempts to ease scrutiny over its explicit connections to the Chinese Communist Party.

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