TikTok is a popular social media app, which focuses on sharing short videos of users lip-syncing or performing comedy acts. Now, the app and the company which backs it are under intense scrutiny of both Congress and the Pentagon due to its ties to China. Two of the military branches, the Army and the Navy, banned its servicemembers from using the app on government-issued phones due to security concerns.
The app was designed by the Beijing-based technology company ByteDance. The app was initially called Musical.ly, but changed its name to help promote it on a global scale. The app became the first Chinese-owned app to become the top app in the U.S. Apple Store last month, which raised significant concerns among lawmakers and Department of Defense officials in the Pentagon due to military servicemembers’ use of the app.
BuzzFeed News recently promoted TikTok as a fun and creative social media platform, specifically for pro-socialist activists. Its article on the music app, which praised socialist users’ popularity and highlighted growing anti-capitalist sentiment of young Americans. The article included the image of socialist theorist Karl Marx bobbing his head to music and an image of the TikTok app opened on a smartphone to promote the app. BuzzFeed News did not raise any privacy or national security concerns in the article, instead focusing on promoting pro-socialist social media creators and socialist theory.
But, with the current scandal surrounding TikTok, BuzzFeed News ignored its recent praise of the app and instead, discussed American backlash to TikTok. It discussed how two lawmakers in Congress, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called on the U.S. intelligence community to investigate the app’s ties to China and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) accused TikTok of censoring pro-Hong Kong protest content on its platform. Additionally, the article noted that a Senate subcommittee invited TikTok to a hearing on Big Tech and China, but TikTok declined to attend. BuzzFeed News failed to mention its previous article praising socialist creators on TikTok and it also failed to acknowledge privacy and national security concerns in the same article and carried on with a business-as-usual approach.
BuzzFeed News also neglected to mention how TikTok responded to American concerns about the app. TikTok released its first “transparency report” to the public, which included information such as the number of requests for user information from governments between January-June 2019. NBC News reported that the report did not include any information requests by the Chinese government, but it did include requests from the United States and India, to name a few. It would have been helpful if BuzzFeed News updated its TikTok articles with information such as this to better inform its viewers of about the app’s ongoing controversy with the United States government.
BuzzFeed News’s coverage of TikTok lacked journalistic integrity because it ignored its past praise of the app. It should acknowledge its mistake and be transparent with its readers, instead of ignoring its mistake entirely.