5. Nine Republican senators led by Marsha Blackburn also sent a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, demanding answers to questions about the privacy of US users. TikTok responded to the letter a couple of days later, admitting that ByteDance employees in China could access the sensitive information of US users. But the company said it manages access to that information through a US-based security team. It did not disclose any further details about this access.
6. In response to the investigation, TikTok spokeswoman Maureen Shanahan told BuzzFeed News, “We know we’re among the most scrutinized platforms from a security standpoint, and our goal is to remove any doubts about the security of data. of US users. That’s why we hire experts.” in their fields, continually work to validate our security standards and bring in reputable independent third parties to test our defenses.”
7. ByteDance used a popular news app it owned called TopBuzz, which no longer exists, to prominently feature pro-China content, a second BuzzFeed News investigation published earlier this week showed. TopBuzz also censored stories about the Chinese government, former employees said.
8th Three former employees told BuzzFeed News that TopBuzz staff occasionally pinned pro-Chinese content to the top of the app. Employees were also asked to provide evidence to ByteDance that they were placing this content on the app through screenshots. “Let’s face it, this wasn’t something you could say no to,” a source said. “If they don’t, someone will go to jail.”
9. Employees also said they were asked to remove coverage of the Hong Kong protests and some content that openly depicted LGBTQ people. The company also removed any articles about Chinese President Xi Jinping and any content comparing him to Winnie the Pooh, something the Chinese government has a history of censoring.
10 Employees said TopBuzz illegally exfiltrated and republished content from major newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, without their permission, as well as YouTube videos. A New York Times spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company had sent TopBuzz a cease and desist order for republishing content without permission. TopBuzz also posted low-quality content to increase engagement, including misinformation.
eleven Six former employees told BuzzFeed News that the company also used the collected data to train its algorithms to write news automatically without human journalists.
12 ByteDance spokesman Billy Kenny issued the following statement to BuzzFeed News in an email: “The claim that TopBuzz, which was discontinued years ago, pinned pro-Chinese government content to the top of the app or worked to promoting it is false and ridiculous. TopBuzz had more than two dozen top-tier media publishing partners in the US and UK, including BuzzFeed, which clearly found nothing to be concerned about when conducting their due diligence.” In response, a BuzzFeed Inc. spokesperson said : “BuzzFeed, Inc. reaches its audience on all major platforms, including those owned by ByteDance, while continuing to report on those platforms with rigorous journalism.”
13 The second investigation provoked more angry reactions from lawmakers.