Why it matters: Chris Wray has once again shared Washington's concerns over TikTok, an incredibly popular video app that could pose an unprecedented threat to US security. The issue is in the algorithm, and its permeability to the Communist Party's dystopian techno-control apparatus.
TikTok is a formidable tool for espionage and mass control, and the Chinese communist dictatorship could do whatever they want with it. These, in brief, are the concerns expressed by FBI director Christopher Wray while attending an event at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Wray once again described TikTok, an extremely popular video app from ByteDance with 80 million active monthly users in the US and a billion active users worldwide, as a potential threat to US national security,
The most pressing issue with TikTok, Wray remarked, is its recommendations algorithm, which could be used by Beijing authorities to "manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations." The Communist Party could also collect user data for more traditional espionage operations, Wray said.
All these tools for control and espionage are "in the hands of a government that doesn't share our values," the FBI director said, further stating that China has "a mission that's very much at odds with what's in the best interests of the United States." These are things that should concern the US government and citizens as well.
Wray's remarks fall perfectly in line with the opinions expressed by many US politicians, with substantial bipartisan support for a total ban of TikTok in the country. FCC commissioner Brendan Carr previously said the US government should enforce a national ban against the Chinese app while the government works with ByteDance to clear up all the security concerns about TikTok.
A potential solution to TikTok's espionage capabilities would be a partnership with a US company like Oracle to route the traffic of US users through US-based servers, something that TikTok started doing in June. Wray doesn't seem convinced though, as he said this is a matter being discussed within the Committee on Foreign Investment in Washington.
Meanwhile, ByteDance is confident about the current (confidential) discussions it is holding with the US government. TikTok is "on a path to fully satisfy all reasonable U.S. national security concerns," the company said, and they "have already made significant strides toward implementing those solutions."