According to media reports, at least 300 TikTok and its parent company ByteDance employees worked for Chinese state media publications, and more than a dozen still do.
According to Forbes, LinkedIn profiles of ByteDance and TikTok employees showed them in current roles such as content partnerships, strategy, policy, public affairs, monetisation, and’media cooperation.’
Profiles of 15 current ByteDance employees revealed that they worked at both the tech firm and state media outlets.
“Fifteen indicate that current ByteDance employees are also concurrently employed by Chinese state media entities, including Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International and China Central/China Global Television,” the report said late on Thursday.
The LinkedIn profiles reviewed by Forbes “reveal significant connections between TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and the propaganda arm of the Chinese government, which has been investing heavily in using social media to amplify disinformation that serves the Chinese Communist Party”.
ByteDance and TikTok, according to the report, did not dispute that the 300 LinkedIn profiles represented current employees or deny their ties to Chinese state media.
According to a ByteDance spokesperson, the company manufactures “hiring decisions based purely on an individual’s professional capability to do the job”.
“For our China-market businesses, that includes people who have previously worked in government or state media positions in China. Outside of China, employees also bring experience in government, public policy, and media organisations from dozens of markets,” the company said.
Forbes discovered 49 LinkedIn profiles for former CCTV and CGTN employees of TikTok and ByteDance.
Among them were CCTV’s former editor-in-chief, who is now ByteDance’s director of media content partnerships, and a ByteDance overseas market operator who, according to his profile, is still an editor for CCTV.
The rise of TikTok has raised concerns among US lawmakers about national security.
TikTok recently admitted that employees outside the country could access that information, though “robust cybersecurity controls and authorization” from the company’s US security team were required.
Buzzfeed News reported in June that TikTok users’ data in the United States was repeatedly accessed by employees in China.