TikTok is the social media app of the moment. Just like MySpace, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram before it, the bubble will likely burst at some point, but for now, TikTok reigns supreme. However, the app and parent company ByteDance do not have the best reputation. A new report from Forbes suggests employees from TikTok are actively working for the Chinese government.

ByteDance has long been accused of working with the Chinese government and supplying user data from people around the world. According to Forbes, scanning the LinkedIn profiles of people working for TikTok shows that 300 of them previously worked with Chinese state media outlets.

That may be understandable, if you leave one job as a media professional you will find yourself in another. While it raises eyebrows, it is not a smoking gun. However, Forbes continues and says 23 directors at ByteDance are assigned to handle “media cooperation”. Furthermore, 15 people are still working with Chinese state media concurrently with ByteDance.

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It is worth noting neither TikTok nor parent ByteDance denies that these people have connections to state media in China. Spokesperson Jennifer Banks explained to Forbes that “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,” Banks says. “Outside of China, employees also bring experience in government, public policy, and media organizations from dozens of markets.”

Connections

Chinese state media is known to be heavy on pro-government propaganda and censorship. Nevertheless, working for the state media outlets does not mean the employee is inherently nefarious. However, it continues the obvious links between ByteDance and the Chinese government.

The question here is whether there is smoke without fire. I’ll let you make your own mind up.

And those 15 people working for the government and ByteDance at the same time, Banks says the company “does not allow employees to hold second or part-time jobs, or any outside business activity, that would cause a conflict of interest.”

Vague enough to be meaning less because it depends on what ByteDance sees as a conflict of interest. Is Banks saying those 15 employees are breaching ByteDance rules, or is working with state media in China not a conflict of interest?

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