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CIA Director Burns sounds the alarm on TikTok: Targeting & Harm of Children 'Genuinely Troubling'

Children Should Be ‘Really Careful’ on TikTok, App Is ‘Genuinely Troubling’: CIA Director

By: Naveen Athrappully

December 18, 2022 (Updated): William Burns, the director of CIA, has warned about children being potentially harmed by spending time on TikTok and talked about the dangers posed by the app that is owned by a China-based company.

In a recent interview with PBS, Burns was asked about his recommendation to people regarding their kids’ usage of TikTok.

“I’d be really careful,” he replied.

When asked if he would add anything more, Burns responded, “No, really careful.” He said it was “genuinely troubling” how the Chinese government is able to manipulate TikTok.

“Because the parent company of TikTok is a Chinese company, the Chinese government is able to insist upon extracting the private data of a lot of TikTok users in this country, and also to shape the content of what goes on to TikTok as well to suit the interests of the Chinese leadership. I think those are real challenges and a source of real concern,” he said.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called for banning TikTok, arguing that the app exposes minors to “violent, depraved, degrading sexual material,” and body image issues for young girls. This is the kind of stuff that Beijing would “never” let Chinese teenagers watch. TikTok is also a risk to data security and privacy, he noted.

Tiktok’s algorithm is programmed in such a way that the app displays different content, and recommendations, for Americans compared to Chinese users.

“If you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, why in the world would we allow a Chinese-owned company, which has to answer to the Chinese Communists, to be one of the largest media platforms in our country?” Cotton asked.

“Would we ever have allowed Soviet Russia to own a major newspaper or a major broadcast network during the Cold War? Of course we wouldn’t have.”

Cotton went on to criticize the Biden administration for “sending signals” that it might tolerate the use of TikTok in the United States despite the “grave threats” the app poses to the nation.

Teenage Self-Harm

Burns’ warning about TikTok use comes as a new report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that the app is pushing self-harm and eating disorder content into children’s feeds. Imran Ahmed, chief exec of CCDH, insisted that TikTok was designed to influence young users into giving up their time and attention.

The app is “poisoning” children’s minds, promoting “hatred” of their own bodies, and pushing suggestions of self-harm and potentially deadly attitudes towards food, he stated. “Parents will be shocked to learn the truth and will be furious that lawmakers are failing to protect young people from Big Tech billionaires, their unaccountable social media apps, and increasingly aggressive algorithms,” Ahmed said.

Last month, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that TikTok is an “enormous threat.” He also admitted that former President Donald Trump was “right” about the danger the app posed to America. “So, if you’re a parent, and you’ve got a kid on TikTok, I would be very, very concerned. All of that data that your child is inputting and receiving is being stored somewhere in Beijing.”


The state of Indiana has filed two lawsuits against TikTok, blaming the social media app for falsely claiming it is safe for children and illicitly sending data of Americans to China.

In a statement, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita called TikTok a “malicious and menacing threat” that the company knows will inflict harm on its users.

“With this pair of lawsuits, we hope to force TikTok to stop its false, deceptive, and misleading practices, which violate Indiana law,” Rokita said.

Republican governors from states like Iowa, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, South Carolina, and Maryland have announced a ban on the use of TikTok by state agencies or on government devices due to security concerns.


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