CNN headlined the rising popularity of TikTok — a social media app — and its rollout of parental controls, “TikTok, every teenager’s favorite app, just rolled out new parental controls.”
However, the article failed to mention any national security concerns or security implications for using the Chinese-designed app.
Instead, CNN addressed the company’s proposed rollout of parental controls, to limit direct messages and content deemed inappropriate for young, underage users. The parental controls only affected its European users and it was not determined when the same controls would be introduced in the United States.
The app also has a limited-use version for children under the age of 13, in addition to a screen time management tool that sets time limits on the app’s usage per day. Yet CNN failed to mention the app’s ties to China and how the U.S. government responded to the app’s increasing popularity.
As Accuracy in Media pointed out last month, a Beijing-based technology company ByteDance designed the app, initially calling it Musical.ly, but later changed its name to help promote it on a global scale. In December 2019, the app became the first Chinese-owned app to become the top app in the U.S. Apple Store. The app focuses on sharing short videos of users lip-syncing or performing comedy acts, but the app is under intense scrutiny from Congress and the Pentagon.
For example, both the Army and the Navy banned its service members from using the app on government-issued phones because the app’s origins in China.
Considering data privacy is a concern among American consumers, CNN should have outlined the app’s ties to China. China has been accused of stealing corporate secrets from American companies for years, which could apply to American consumer data collected by the TikTok app. Neither did CNN mention the U.S. government’s restrictions on the app’s use by military service members on government-issued phones, which would also provide important context to CNN’s readers. The cable news network should have provided more information and context about TikTok’s origins to better inform its readers about the potential pitfalls of using the app.