ByteDance under federal investigation for using TikTok to spy on journalists

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ByteDance is the Chinese parent company of the popular social media platform and app TikTok. TikTok has been in the news for months as various government entities (such as Canada) have banned the app from their devices. TikTok is trying to separate itself from ByteDance by opening two data centers in Europe. That move is seemingly to try and show user data will be stored in the EU rather than in China.

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With so many government entities banning TikTok, the Department of Justice and the FBI are investigating ByteDance for spying on journalists who used the TikTok platform. Emily Baker-White is a Forbes reporter who ByteDance reportedly surveilled, and she says:

According to a source in position to know, the DOJ Criminal Division, Fraud Section, working alongside the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, has subpoenaed information from ByteDance regarding efforts by its employees to access U.S. journalists’ location information or other private user data using the TikTok app. According to two sources, the FBI has been conducting interviews related to the surveillance. ByteDance’s use of the app to surveil U.S. citizens was first reported by Forbes in October, and confirmed by an internal company investigation in December.

“We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved, and they are no longer employed at ByteDance. Our internal investigation is still ongoing, and we will cooperate with any official investigations when brought to us,” said ByteDance spokesperson Jennifer Banks. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.


The entire TikTok controversy is far from over; more companies and governments are banning the app from their devices. It will be interesting to see if TikTok survives in its current form.

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