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Oskar Westerlin, Joe Biden | China plus the Storting equals true

comments expresses the writer’s opinions.

TikTok is a tool for the dictatorship of China to monitor and influence other countries’ citizens. Therefore, the app should be banned, both in Norway and all other countries.

If one wonders whether the app could be harmful, one can only ask the Chinese authorities. They have banned TikTok in their own country!

Anders Magnus

Anders Magnus has been a foreign correspondent for NRK on three continents: Africa, Asia and America. His last assignment was Washington DC, where he covered most of Donald Trump’s reign – and the start of Jo Biden’s.

In the US, there is now a heated debate about banning TikTok, because the app is a security threat. In the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans stood together for once. By a majority of 352 to 65, they decided that TikTok’s Chinese owners must sell out or the app will be banned in the US. The Senate must also vote on the bill, before it can be signed into law by President Joe Biden – something he has said he is ready to do.

China’s Communist Party has bluntly rejected selling TikTok to foreign owners. The reason may be that the Chinese authorities have loaded the algorithm so that it serves both the propaganda apparatus and the intelligence service.

A powerful weapon that they do not want to have revealed and hand over to the enemy – that is, the democracies in the West.

In Norway, no political parties have advocated a ban on TikTok. There is only one adult among the politicians in Norway, and it is a young man: Unge Høyre’s leader Ola Svenneby. He is bravely in favor of banning TikTok in this country, despite the fact that the app has been perhaps the youth party’s most important digital contact surface with young people in Norway.

– I am sure that TikTok will be banned. It is only a matter of when, says Young Conservative leader Ola Svenneby to E24.

He believes that the party should advocate a total ban on the very popular app in Norway at the national meeting in June. Svenneby justifies the drastic measure by saying that TikTok could pose a threat to national security, writes the website

– It is known that the Chinese authorities have great influence and actively use technology to influence public opinion, says Svenneby to E24

Surveillance

China’s Communist Party and its leader, dictator Xi Jinping, have all the power in China – including over business. According to China’s National Security Law from 2017, all Chinese companies must hand over information they have that the authorities demand to have access to. This also applies to ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok.

A former technology manager in Byte Dance has in a legal summons told that members of the Communist Party in China used data from the company to find and identify democracy activists during demonstrations in Hong Kong. Both geographic location and IP addresses were mapped.

He goes on to say that ByteDance has its own subdivision of the Communist Party in the company. It has access to all the personal data ByteDance – and thus also TikTok – collects, including data from American users.

We can also count on them having the same access to users in all other countries, including Norway.

This access has been camouflaged by the Communist Party and ByteDance as a “back door” into the system. This is how one can bypass the protection of the data that ByteDance claims to have installed, in its attempt to appease critics in other countries.

The information about TikTok’s users eventually ends up in the Communist Party’s digital surveillance apparatus. An important reason why parliamentarians, public employees – including the police – and journalists at NRK are no longer allowed to have TikTok on their work phones, for security reasons.

But the protection the Storting imposes on its own representatives and employees should not apply to the rest of the population!

Impact

TikTok is not only an app for monitoring and spying on the population, it is also an app for political influence. In China, the authorities – i.e. the Communist Party – demand access to the algorithms used in all Chinese-owned apps. They want this access to be able to change the apps’ content and decide to a greater extent over the content that the algorithms choose for the users.

TikTok is now increasingly used as a propaganda tool that can promote the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian view of the world, and downplay democratic values. For example, the former technology manager says that the company’s engineers openly promoted anti-Japanese content and took down posts that were positive about the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

TikTok is thus an excellent tool for the Chinese Communist Party to interfere in democratic countries’ election campaigns and elections, so that candidates who are positive about China more easily come to power.

The authorities in China have long shown a willingness – and ability – to get into the digital infrastructure of democratic countries. The Chinese have, among other things hacked in on the New Zealand Parliament and the UK Electoral Commission. The latter gave the Chinese access to voter addresses in the UK. They have also hacked the email accounts of British MPs who have been critical of China.

In the US, thousands of politicians, academics, journalists, pro-democracy activists, defense personnel and technologists have also been attacked by Chinese hackers. (The same has probably happened in Norway, hopefully PST and the intelligence service know about it).

News as China wants it

The Chinese Communist Party’s strategy for domination is slow but comprehensive. They have now managed to spread TikTok to one billion people worldwide, 170 million of whom are in the United States. That’s well over half of the US population.

In Norway, TikTok now has 1.6 million users, almost 60 percent of all Norwegian youth use the app every single day.

Now the Chinese are betting on dominating the news flow of the world’s inhabitants. In the US, a third of everyone under 30 gets their news from TikTok, in Norway finds four out of ten young people aged 16–19 their news on the app.

Currently, TikTok sources much of its news material from mainstream news producers, but as we have seen with content about Japan and the democracy movement in Hong Kong, the engineers can change the algorithms for more China-friendly material. In this way, the Chinese Communist Party will have a formidable resource to shape future generations’ view of the world.

China’s dictator Xi Jinping has often warned against Western thinking, especially on democracy and human rights. With TikTok, he has a brilliant tool to fight democracy in the Western world and promote an authoritarian political view – with China as the world’s leading star.

Useful influencers – useful idiots

China and ByteDance have long used Western influencers – so-called influencers – to get them to create propaganda for TikTok. These are also found in Norway. Influences Oscar Westerlin says to NRK that “there is no evidence that the authorities in China have anything to do with TikTok’s decisions”.

Yes, the evidence is there. Both the National Security Law in China and testimonies from ex-employees show that the Chinese Communist Party can – and will – monitor and influence through TikTok. But if Westerlin wants to wait until China’s Communist Party openly admits such a plan, he will be able to dream for a long time about TikTok’s innocence.

We have a special name for those who do the enemy’s business without being fully aware of it themselves: Useful idiots.

I have for many years warned against TikTok.

And also advocated a ban on the app:

Now I would like to send an appeal to all Storting politicians and parties: Listen to the wise youth politician Ola Svenneby and ban TikTok as soon as possible. It will benefit the growing family – and democracy in Norway.

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