NSA Chief Warns of TikTok’s Broad Influence

U.S. National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone expressed concern during congressional testimony about Chinese-owned video app TikTok’s data collection and potential to facilitate broad influence operations.

Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was worried about the type of data and algorithms the social media platform holds. 

When asked by Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville about any concerns he had over TikTok’s influence on American children, Nakasone said that the app concerned him for a number of different reasons. 

U.S. national security officials are concerned that TikTok could use its vast global reach to shape public opinion by either suppressing certain videos or promoting others, Nakasone said. 

Nakasone ended his comments by asserting that the TikTok platform could enable sweeping influence operations. Nakasone said his concern is not only the fact that TikTok can proactively influence users but also its ability to “turn off the message,” and noted its large number of users.

“TikTok concerns me for a number of different reasons. One is the data that they have. Secondly, is the algorithm and who controls the algorithm. Third is the broad platform influence operations, as we talked about previously,” the NSA chief said. 

“It’s not only a fact that you can influence something, but you can also you know, turn off the message as well when you have such a large population of listeners,” Nakasone said.

Nakasone’s comments follow a directive from the White House that gives federal agencies 30 days to remove TikTok from government-issued devices. And they come amid a major policy debate in Washington about what to do about one of the most popular apps among American youth.

Nakasone’s remarks were made the same day Democratic senators unveiled legislation intended to give the federal government more power to regulate or ban technology tied to a foreign adversary.

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