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LinkedIn review finds TikTok and ByteDance employees worked for Chinese state media: Report

Hundreds of employees of TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, appear to have worked for or currently work for Chinese state media companies, according to a new report.

In an examination of 300 LinkedIn profiles of employees of the cultural juggernaut, Forbes found deep connections to China’s state propaganda industry. Among these employees are several senior figures in charge of much of the content shown on the app. The claim was not contested by TikTok or ByteDance.

A recent report found that multiple TikTok and ByteDance employees had past or present ties with Chinese state media outlets.

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

“[ByteDance makes] 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 organizations from dozens of markets,” Jennifer Banks, a spokeswoman for ByteDance, told the news outlet.


She added that ByteDance does not allow employees to hold second jobs that would pose a conflict of interest — a point that was contradicted by reporting. Fifteen employees were found to be working concurrently for media outlets designated as official functionaries of the Chinese Communist Party by the U.S. State Department, according to the New York Times.

In 50 profiles of employees working specifically for TikTok, the employees worked in areas related to policy, strategy, operations, monetization, user experience, and localization, Forbes found — all areas that could entail a conflict of interest. Profiles of 23 ByteDance directors labeled them as responsible for partnerships, public affairs, corporate social responsibility, and “media cooperation” — several more areas vulnerable to a conflict of interest.

Forbes’s investigation is consistent with several other investigative works into ties between TikTok and the Chinese Communist Party, showing a concerted strategy by Beijing to push propaganda to Western audiences through the app. A Buzzfeed report two weeks ago claimed that ByteDance pushed Chinese propaganda through a former U.S. news app, TopBuzz, while censoring articles critical of Beijing. Two days later, Bloomberg found that the Chinese government had requested TikTok to allow it to create a “stealth account,” covertly pushing propaganda to Western audiences through the popular app.


The revelations about Beijing’s deep ties to the most popular app in the United States may raise alarm in Washington, where many have suspected that the Chinese Communist Party may use the video-sharing app to influence U.S. political and cultural life. A Washington Examiner review recently found that TikTok also employs numerous former U.S. congressional employees for lobbying.

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