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ByteDance the owner of Tiktok promoted pro-China messages in defunct news app

Tiktok’s parent company, ByteDance based in China, used its now-defunct news app called TopBuzz to spread pro-China messages. Buzzfeed News reported, “For years, lawmakers and commentators have feared that the Chinese government could use TikTok — which is owned by a Chinese parent company, ByteDance — to secretly distribute content sympathetic to the Chinese Communist Party in order to shift public opinion in the United States.

According to new claims by four former employees of the company, ByteDance already has used one of its apps to push pro-China messages to Americans: its now-defunct English-language news app, TopBuzz. ByteDance forcefully denies the claims.”

The messages

Engadget reported, “The content the former employees helped promote included panda videos, along with videos endorsing travel to China. At least one staff member also remembers pinning a video featuring a white man talking about the benefits of moving his startup to the country. As one of the former employees put it, the content ByteDance wanted them to promote wasn’t anything overtly political and took more of a soft sell approach. However, they added: “Let’s be real, this was not something you could say no to.”” In addition to that the company had spread messages that would flag reports on the Chinese government for removal. According to Engadget, “flagged content included coverage of Hong Kong protests, pieces that mention President Xi Jinping and even those that reference Winnie the Pooh. Some employees also said that content depicting openly LGBTQ+ people were removed at times.”

ByteDance’s reaction

A spokesperson of the company denied the claim of the former employees. To Buzzfeed News he said, “The claim that TopBuzz — which was discontinued years ago — pinned pro-Chinese government content to the top of the app or worked to promote it is false and ridiculous. TopBuzz had over two dozen top tier US and UK media publishing partners, including BuzzFeed, which clearly did not find anything of concern when performing due diligence.”

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