The Democratic National Committee has officially joined TikTok, a controversial social media platform with deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party, despite advising their own campaigns against joining the Chinese-owned app during the 2020 election cycle.
“We continue to advise campaign staff to refrain from using TikTok on personal devices. If you are using TikTok for campaign work, we recommend using a separate phone and account,” the DNC security team instructed its candidates two years ago.
Despite the warning, the Democratic Party has completed an about-face on the platform, at the same time Washington, D.C. begins to take seriously the threat of spying through the app.
The DNC’s stark reversal comes amidst evidence revealing that the TikTok parent company employs former Chinese Communist Party officials, including individuals with military ties, to executive roles and even grants party members preferential treatment in hiring processes.
The app’s founder also pledged to use ByteDance to “promote socialist core values” and devotion to the Chinese Communist Party in 2018.
TikTok’s threat to national security and data privacy – previously acknowledged by the DNC – prompted the Trump administration to attempt to ban the platform from operating in the U.S. – an effort recently quashed by the Biden White House.
The committee maintains it is employing security precautions such as dedicating individual devices that are isolated from “other DNC assets/processes/businesses as a mitigation to the privacy risk.” The DNC attributed its decision to an effort to reach more voters, particularly younger generations.
The move comes amidst a massive lobbying campaign mounted by TikTok and its parent company ByteDance. Many of the lobbyists and firms hired by the company have ties to Democratic politics and leaders such as Nancy Pelosi.
Internally, TikTok has also hired several Democratic Party alumni, including Obama administration National Security Council members to run its Trust and Safety operations.
TikTok also funds several fact-checking organizations used by other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, which frequently exercise their censorship capabilities against conservative users and stories critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) still does not have an account on the platform.
“We do not have any plans to give the Chinese Communist Party our data, nor do we plan to use their spyware,” said RNC spokesperson Nathan Brand.