Schumer concerned by Army's use of TikTok, other Chinese social media platforms

Schumer concerned by Army's use of TikTok, other Chinese social media platforms
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave MORE (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday raised concerns over U.S. Army personnel using the massively popular Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok to recruit young people into their ranks. 

TikTok has faced intensifying scrutiny from Capitol Hill and the intelligence community over its close ties to the Chinese government, which critics say could allow China to collect reams of data on U.S. users and censor the content on the short-form video-sharing app. 

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Schumer, in a letter to the U.S. Army chief, said he thinks it is risky for the Army to use TikTok — the most-downloaded app in the U.S. — to appeal to potential new recruits. Over the summer, the Army launched a social media blitz across a range of social media platforms, including TikTok, in an effort to recruit new soldiers. 

"While I recognize that the Army must adapt its recruiting techniques in order to attract young Americans to serve, I urge you to assess the potential national security risks posed by China-owned technology companies before choosing to utilize certain platforms," Schumer wrote.

In the letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyRepublicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Top Armed Services Democrat scolds military leaders on Trump's intervention in war crimes cases MORE, Schumer asked whether the Army has consulted with the intelligence community to learn whether TikTok and other China-owned platforms "pose security risks as platforms for recruitment." 

He also asked whether the Army has conducted an "analysis" of social media platforms to determine whether TikTok is the ideal recruitment forum.

"National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data, including user content and communications, IP addresses, location-related data, metadata, and other sensitive personal information, particularly when viewed in light of laws that compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party," Schumer wrote.

TikTok and its Chinese-market counterpart, Douyin, had 625 million monthly active users in August, according to app analytics company App Annie, and the short-form video platform has remained the most-downloaded app on Apple and Google’s stores for months. The TikTok hashtag "army" yields a slew of videos with 8.2 billion views overall. 

That growing popularity has brought a wave of scrutiny from policymakers and regulators, who are claiming it is dangerous to allow children to use the Chinese-owned app. TikTok has pushed back against all allegations that China has a say over how it deals with content or data, even as The Washington Post reported former U.S. TikTok employees were asked to remove videos that Beijing did not approve of. 

Last month Schumer, alongside Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week MORE (R-Ark.), sent a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire questioning whether the app "cooperate[s] with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” 

The platform is continuing to make inroads in the U.S.