The Sound of the New War Drum Goes Tik-Tok

Privacy concerns are being used to wage war on China, say writers from CODEPINK. The U.S. should focus on passing federal data privacy laws instead of targeting one app.

(Solen Feyissa/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Wei Yu, Nuvpreet Kalra and Melissa Garriga

Last Thursday, the TikTok CEO was grilled in a U.S. congressional hearing for five hours on the grounds of “security concerns.” This was days after the F.B.I. and U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation on the Chinese-owned American company.

Isn’t it ironic that while the U.S. government is putting TikTok under the magnifying glass, it’s turning a blind eye to its own surveillance programs on the American people? 

Ten years ago, Edward Snowden told the whole world the truth about the U.S. global surveillance programs. If Congress cares about our digital privacy, it should begin by investigating the surveillance policies of its own U.S. agencies. The campaign against TikTok is a fear-mongering tactic to wage war on China. 

In 2020, the F.B.I. used social media to monitor racial justice protesters who were targeted for arrests. For example, activist Mike Avery was arrested after posting about protests on Facebook, and his charges were dropped without explanation a few weeks later.

An F.B.I. official was so frustrated with the extensive social media surveillance that he told the Intercept, “Man, I don’t even know what’s legal anymore.”

The dissonance of accusing TikTok of security concerns while working with other companies to invade people’s privacy rings loudly in our ears. 

Social media has long been a tool used by federal agencies to target individuals and communities designated as “threats.” The Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement have monitored the social media activities of immigrant rights activists.

The State Department used social media screening to discriminate against the Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities under the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban.” 

It was only last year that the post-9/11 National Security Agency’s phone surveillance program was reported to have shut down. Major telecom companies like Verizon gave the government access to hundreds of millions of calls and texts. Dataminr, a startup Twitter partner, provided police with data about BLM protests. One focus on “potential gang members” targeted Black and Latinx people, including school-aged children. 

Meta’s subsidiary WhatsApp was reportedly used by the Saudi government to hack journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s phone. Meanwhile, Meta itself used a VPN to spy on users’ smartphones for market research in exchange for bribes. Yet WhatsApp is not banned on government devices.

If our lawmakers are concerned about protecting digital privacy, then Congress should start by investigating American federal agencies. Unlike China as well as other Western countries, such as the EU, the U.S. does not have any digital privacy laws on the federal level.

The U.S. could cooperate with China to better ensure people’s privacy is protected, instead of driving fear to target one single social media platform.

The ongoing effort to investigate and ban TikTok is not about our privacy, but about fueling more aggression against China. Fear-mongering about China has also caused the rise of anti-Asian racism in the U.S. In trying to ban TikTokthe U.S. is projecting its invasive policies onto another government. Warmongers are using the issue to create paranoia and justify even more aggression towards China. 

It is not a coincidence that these recent bans have come about shortly after a Chinese weather balloon was shot down over the U.S. Privacy concerns are being used to wage war on China. The U.S. should focus on passing federal data privacy laws instead of targeting one app.

Double standards and warmongering against China need to stop. China is not our enemy. 

Wei Yu is CODEPINK’S China is Not Our Enemy coordinator.

Nuvpreet Kalra is CODEPINK’s social media intern.

Melissa Garriga is CODEPINK’s media relations manager.

This article is from

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

37 comments for “The Sound of the New War Drum Goes Tik-Tok

  1. L.C. Ng
    April 2, 2023 at 17:24

    The campaign against TickTock may be part of a propaganda war against China but I think it’s mostly grandstanding – a chance for some people to show how “patriotic” they are.

    The fuss over TickTock will fade away but the problem of confronting official propaganda remains. One way to attack this problem is to fight propaganda with undeniable truths. For example, the warmongers are often scared stiff of calling the government in Taiwan it’s official name, which is the Republic of China (ROC).

    Why? Because that would lead people to wonder how the “Republic of China” isn’t Chinese! AND eventually discover that the US had supported the Republic of China for over twenty years (1950-1972) as the ONLY true government of China! And during all those years it was the ROC that threatened to invade the mainland every year! Around 1962, when Chiang Kai Shek thought “the time was ripe” because the mainland was having economic difficulties, he requested US help and the latter took the suggestion so seriously that Congress even discussed the matter. Fortunately the invasion didn’t take place because the CIA allegedly testified to Congress that the vast majority of mainland Chinese still supported Mao and any such attempt would fail.

    After mainland China exploded its nuclear bombs in the 1960s and started building nuclear submarines in the early 1070s, the balance of power obviously shifted over to Beijing. By the time Nixon visited Beijing the UN had voted in the People’s Republic as the true government of China and recognized Taiwan only as a province of China. Today, Western media habitually describe Taiwan as an island that “Beijing regards as a breakaway province”, hoping to hide the fact that not only the mainland, but the UN with nearly all its members had recognized that there is only one China and Taiwan is a province of China.

    It might surprise some readers here that the ROC on Taiwan ALSO insists that there is only one China AND Taiwan is a province of China. The difference is that Taiwan’s Constitution considers the ROC as the legitimate China while Beijing insists the People’s Republic is the real China. Tsai Ing-wen was elected as the President of the Republic of China. If she doesn’t recognize the ROC then she should resign or be arrested for violating the country’s Constitution.

    Any war between the two Chinese sides, therefore, is a civil war. And the American people should consider whether they want to sacrifice their lives by meddling in other people’s civil war.

    • Valerie
      April 3, 2023 at 04:18

      Great informative post L.C. Thankyou for that.

  2. Wilikins
    April 2, 2023 at 13:39

    Crony capitalism is the primary reason TikTok is being threatened with banishment from the US market. Although using TikTok’s Chinese ownership to spread fear the Chinese government is/could use the platform to obtain information about Americans and use that information to manipulate them is also a trope of the propaganda to vilify the Chinese as a threat to Americans. Facebook and YouTube lobbying provides the graft to spur many members of Congress to encourage Americans to be threatened by TikTok and the security state has seized on this theme to demonize China because it is a geopolitical opponent immune to standard US aggression to dominate its markets and government.

  3. Rafi Simonton
    April 2, 2023 at 01:56


    In the Vietnam war era, it wasn’t unusual for some guy stuck in ’50s thinking to assert we should have gone into China during the Korean war. I’d ask if he knew how all of the conquerors of China come to be called. When I saw the quizzical look, I’d say: “Chinese!”

    An ancient and intelligent culture, strong sense of identity, lots of people, and patience. No big deal to wait (and plan for) a century or two to overwhelm and absorb a few upstart invaders. Nowadays add technical prowess.

    M.A.D. is a problem even if the enemy of the month isn’t bristling with nuclear missiles to lob back at the U.S. Granted, the neocons seem obsessive enough to think their psychotic version of the world is reality and somehow “tactical” nukes will stay put. They can pretend political blow-back never happens, but good luck with the literal blow-back of radioactive air as it circles the globe.

  4. D.H.Fabian
    April 1, 2023 at 16:53

    We seem unable to connect our government’s ongoing efforts to provoke nuclear war against Russia with its simultaneous efforts to provoke nuclear war against China. Can you see any logic to this administration’s agenda?

    • lester
      April 2, 2023 at 12:55

      No, Fabian, there is no logic to this, just arrogance and an assumption nothing can go wrong. That is true for the whole of the Constant Warfare State, 1950 to present.

  5. Credence Clearwater
    April 1, 2023 at 13:58

    What the Americans claim others are doing, is what they are doing themselves.

    We know that the NSA has a ‘motto’ of ‘collect everything’, IIRC, thanks to Mr. Snowden.
    We know that the US Gov works closely with ‘social media’ to influence what you can see, thanks most recently to Mr. Musk and Taibbi.
    We also know that various gear and software, including OS, has backdoors built in by request of the USG, from other leaks.

    The question is … what concerns you more … that a government on the other side of the world might know what you are thinking, saying, and doing … or that the government that rules you and controls your life and everything you see knows what you are thinking, saying and doing?

    • Scared Person
      April 1, 2023 at 20:55

      This bill simply seems to make legal, what has already been occurring, and extend these fascistic mechanisms of social control. Good comment, thanks.

      The rulers are getting desperate, because they know their system is falling apart, so, to prevent reasonable and necessary civil unrest and discontent, information must be heavily curated and packaged. Otherwise the rulers might have to actually get a job which forces them to live just as they force us to live… in desperation and insecurity, as a precariat.

      Information control is cheaper than chains or soldiers on street corners.
      The imperial ruling class know they have no clothes. Most people know it too, to various degrees. The rulers’ game now, is to convince the many, that this time the cry of “wolf” is real, even though every other such cry, was proven to be utter BS.

  6. lester
    April 1, 2023 at 12:05

    If the US military can’t defeat small countries like Vietnam or Afghanistan, how can it defeat a big country like China?

    • Scared Person
      April 1, 2023 at 21:13

      I guess it depends what defeat, and win, mean to the US.
      The US lost the illegal wars against peasant farmers, and resource rich impoverished nations, but, the MIC+ made a whole lot of money from the (largely fictional) public treasury. Millions died, for profit, win or lose.

      Perpetual war is profitable for certain people, and the ideal war for profit, is one which does not actually end. War profiteers “are” the state, much more than “the people” are. Psychopaths rule the US empire. I accepted this horrifying view long ago, I do not know what can be done though. So far, every popular movement has failed to achieve more than a band-aid, including the new deal (which preserved oligarchic capitalism).

      The problem, is that the US cannot continue as it is, without war and conquest. In a marathon race, the US has to sabotage the competition, so it does not have to compete honestly. The US takes a bat to the knees of rivals, then claims other systems and societies are sh*t because they can’t run very well.

      Existing system and power relations dominated by the US are to be preserved above and beyond any innovation of social or economic practice which renders the US model obsolete. The US is holding back human progress, because a few powerful people refuse to surrender their iron grip on power. The US establishment will gladly kill millions, for private profit, at public expense, to prevent popularly supported change on earth.

      My 2c anyhow.

      • Ezra Teter
        April 2, 2023 at 08:55

        They would gladly kill billions.

      • lester
        April 2, 2023 at 12:59

        Sadism and psychopathy are surely involved, too. The sex tourism industry in SE Asia is a by-product of our Vietnam War.

    • Rafi Simonton
      April 2, 2023 at 01:14

      Shhh! That question will get you on the “un-American” list immediately. (Presuming you aren’t on it already.)

      Ve haf vays of making you NOT Tik Talk!

  7. lester
    April 1, 2023 at 12:03

    Perhaps fussing over weather balloons and TikTok will distract Americans from how they keep getting poorer, more often homeless.

  8. Vera Gottlieb
    April 1, 2023 at 11:51

    Well said…The word is LATINOS…but never fail putting down another culture. N’est-ce-pas, Yanx???

    • April 2, 2023 at 00:07

      . per Wikipedia: Latinx is a neologism in American English which is used to refer to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity in the United States. The gender-neutral ?-x? suffix replaces the ?-o/-a? ending of Latino and Latina that are typical of grammatical gender in Spanish. Its plural is Latinxs.

      • blimbax
        April 2, 2023 at 03:37

        You’re right, that’s what Wikipedia says, but putting aside Wikipedia’s reliability in general, the fact that some people, academics perhaps, created the word “Latinx”, does not mean that it is a term accepted by most people, including most people to whom the word is applied. Most Latinos and Latinas reject it. Very few, maybe 2 or 4 percent, use it. See, hxxps:// and hxxps:// (in which it is stated that, while 2% of Latinos use “Latinx,” 40% are bothered by the term or offended by it).

        • Blessthebeasts
          April 3, 2023 at 11:15

          It’s good to see that Latinos have too much integrity and common sense to accept the ridiculous woke term “Latinx.”

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    April 1, 2023 at 11:50

    Same, old same…Good for the goose but not good for the gander.

  10. rosemerry
    April 1, 2023 at 04:55

    It seems that the USA cannot solve any problem or difficulty (usually self-inflicted) except by blaming, interference and violence. Nobody is allowed to compete, to innovate, to share, to work with others-only the King of the World can decide. The results can be seen by people of all ages born anywhere in the last 80 years or more. Has the world been improved by US leadership? The USA likes to pretend it won WW2 and has used its media to convince even the participants of this lie! Korea, Vietnam, Iraq sanctions of the 1990s and all the conflicts this century. Benefits to the populations?? All the “intelligence” and spying by the USA and its adversaries have exacerbated divisions, and now that the Chinese president has dared to help cooperation among many countries formerly in conflict, the USA is determined to stop this terrible possibility of peace! Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkiyé, Kurds, Syria NO NO NO, the USA remains illegally in Syria stealing oil and grain after 8 years despite NEVER being invited in!
    It is not the “national security” of the USA or anyone else, it is the behavior of the USA towards anyone including its “allies” like the EU!!

  11. Valerie
    April 1, 2023 at 04:06

    The tik tok i fear the most, is the one eminating from the “doomsday” clock. At 90 seconds to midnight our focus is sadly misdirected. And whatever happened to “Pegasus” the Israeli spy programme i wonder. Not much about that these days.

    • robert e williamson jr
      April 2, 2023 at 23:53

      I like this and agree in a most profuse manner.

      Ever hear of CARBYNE . The most popular 911, next gen . . . . , Ghislaine Maxwell . . , tik – tok, tik- tok!

      check it out.

      • Valerie
        April 3, 2023 at 04:28

        It took quite a search, but eventually i found a website from 2019. Hadn’t heard of it before. It’s quite compelling. We have no bloody idea what goes on.

  12. LeoSun
    April 1, 2023 at 03:43

    Not for nothing; but, CODEPINK needs to get hip to the fact that The U.S. Government, The WH & CONGRESS work hand-n-hand to screw U.S. It’s The Party of Canines. “With these choices, one only need choose which one to be eaten by, the “liberal” fox or the “conservative” wolf-because both of them will eat you.”

    At the present, “THEY” GOT U.S., @ Code Blue!!! “SENATE BILL 686-The RESTRICT Act.” The White House is very much in favor of this bill. Like BIDEN-HARRIS, The RESTRICT Act IS a ticking Time BOMB..Tik. Tok. Tik. Tok. And, that platform TikTok Is NOT named in SB 686. It doesn’t have to be. SB686 is surveillance of ALL platforms. Censorship. That Misinformation Arm of The WH, LIVES!!! The RESTRICT Act Empowers, Authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to review and prohibit certain transactions between persons in the United States and foreign adversaries, and for other purposes.”

    “Squawk. Squawk. Squawk about it. All night talk about it. The oceans & the atmosphere. Well, I’ve been away for along time and it looks like a mess around here!!!”

    “If Congress cares about our digital privacy, it should begin by” SHREDDING Senate Bill 686, RESTRICT Act, Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act.”

    The Script writers are so clever, i.e., “take the first letter of each capital word before “Act,” gets ya to “RESTRICT.” It’s f/lethal!!..aka The Patriot Act 2.0. It’s absolutely counter to CONGRESS’ Anti-Asian Act. It’s ANTI-Animal, Plant, Human LIFE Act!!!

    IF, Senate Bill 686 passes, follows, are the countries considered foreign adversaries in the RESTRICT Act: 1) China (includes Hong Kong and Macao); 2) Iran; 3) North Korea; 4) Russia; 5) Venezuela

    SENATE BILL 686, The RESTRICT Act is MORE than just a TIK TOK BAN; AND, its making its way through CONGRESS. “The sound of the drum depends on the drummer.” How about it, will CODEPINK lobby Congress, again; and demand they chuck it, The RESTRICT Act, in the _uket bucket?!? “May the force be with you!!!” Ciao.

  13. Vesa Sainio
    April 1, 2023 at 03:07

    It is mindboggling to see that US and its vassals have become absolutely crazy in their talks and actions. And it even worse that millions of people sincerely follow their masters believing everything that is told to them. Is this the end of the world or the beginning of a better (not perfect) world?

  14. Eddie S
    March 31, 2023 at 22:21

    I continue to remain dumbfounded at the utter blatancy with which my country, the USA, is INTENTIONALLY planning a war with with another super-power. WTF ! Is this 1938 Germany? This is the singularly WORST idea of the last ten years, even edging-out the provocations of Russia in Ukraine. It certainly destroys the illusion that the US attempts to maintain that we’re the ‘good guys’ in world politics, and we’re peace & justice loving. I blame the goddamn neo-cons in this country for their ubiquitous militarism. This country and the world had a golden opportunity for a more peaceful coexistence back in the 1990’s when the USSR dissolved, and also when China became ‘more capitalistic’, but the new-cons and their voting supporters continually perceived the world through the military-lens and so here we are, sliding into WWIII. Sick.

  15. robert e williamson jr
    March 31, 2023 at 18:59

    Quoting the above, “If our law makers are concerned about protecting digital privacy, then Congress should start by investigation American federal agencies. Unlike China as well as other western countries such as EU, the US does not have any digital privacy law on the federal level.” Hear! Hear!

    This is a thought provoking pare of statements. I believe, and it is my now confirmed opinion, that the feds are hands off because they have motive, methods, and The ability to do as they damned well please in this case or at least think they do. I’d like to know what precedent or law gives them the authority that absolves them of any crime.

    I never see very much about the PROMIS / Inslaw Scandal and we all should know all those details. No one seems to, in spite of the fact that variations of PROMIS and it progeny (term ? for off shoots of the original) have been marked by more than one provider. Every one made money except for Bill Hamilton – money selling variations and money by using these systems nefariously.

    I firmly believe, The problem is the feds, NSA, CIA, DOJ and others absconded with the work product of William Hamilton and left trail littered with corpses in the process.

    Information exists to back up this statement, that story is for another time.

    However, from what I have learned from following this saga is the methods used in the PROMIS software model, an I’m technically way out of my league here, open avenues by using the product that was stolen and utilized by the U.S and Israeli’s to modify, re-engineer and author various other software systems for subversive uses. Seems most all off shoots of the PROMIS used backdoors.

    This is a dangerous travesty of justice and needs to be addressed. To hell with DOJ’s use of secrecy to sheild the evil doers.

    Thanks CN

    My point is that as long as this crime stands the Feds have no reason to change their position so called “digital privacy” seeing as how they are the most significant abusers of said digital security.

    This case and the very important issues it exposes has been swept under the secrecy rug of a bogus national security excuse. Great info on this in Webb’s new volumes.

    Thanks CN

  16. bardamu
    March 31, 2023 at 17:49

    It’s nice to have Code Pink weighing in here.

    But I don’t think collegiality should extend to our allowing the benefit of more doubt than exists. The DOJ is not “turning a blind eye” to mass surveillance by American agencies and businesses. It’s running interference for their turf war.

    Tik Tok is not the first media giant to be cross-examined harshly by the US Congress. This happened to Facebook recently and Microsoft a few decades ago. It happens when some entity around government wants favors. It is conceivable that the intention is just to create a pretext to shut Tik Tok down. But the 3-letters work with foreign entities pretty extensively, so it is not clear that this is not simply another press gang enlistment.

    The intention here is either to enlist Tik Tok in gathering data for the US–likely the A#1 first choice goal–to force it to operate with sufficient back doors that data can be farmed from it otherwise. If they shut Tik Tok down flat, it will not be for what it does wrong, but for what it refuses to do wrong.

    As agency connections with (other) organized crime become more thoroughly knit and extra-Constitutional powers more consolidated, the problems associated with universal theft of identity, license, and data will become first easier to spot, then harder to avoid.

    Lots of you need to check out TOR and other options around encryption. There are already laws to be careful of. But you’re better off in early.

  17. March 31, 2023 at 16:33

    Irony is not a synonym for hypocrisy, and this isn’t just irony. “Ten years ago, Edward Snowden told the whole world the truth about the U.S. global surveillance programs. If Congress cares about our digital privacy, it should begin by investigating the surveillance policies of its own U.S. agencies. The campaign against TikTok is a fear-mongering tactic to wage war on China.” Democrats have, as best as I can tell, never really seen a war they wouldn’t start, given half a chance.

  18. Jeff Harrison
    March 31, 2023 at 16:11

    Thank you. I’ve been saying that very same thing for sometime now. I’ve also been saying that in all likelihood, the real problem is that TikTok has no backdoors for the NSA and CIA to exploit. Thank you Ed Snowden.

    • WillD
      March 31, 2023 at 22:30

      Yes, I agree about no NSA & CIA backdoor. I wonder what the CEO said when he was approached to arrange the backdoor. His appearance and grilling at the hearing suggests that he refused, so is now being punished.

    • Wilikins
      April 2, 2023 at 13:51

      Since most users use smart phones and either cell phone towers or ISP’s to connect to TikTok, and every other website/application, the NSA and CIA should be able to monitor all Americans usage of everything they do online. The TikTok issue is about protecting the social network market for American special interests and using this theme to assail China, America’s primary competitor for global supremacy.

  19. blimbax
    March 31, 2023 at 15:34

    Why do you use a term – “Latinx” – that is overwhelmingly rejected by most of the people to whom you apparently apply it?

    • April 1, 2023 at 17:14

      The term Latinx is particularly offensive since it is the construct of a small group of self-declared representatives of an exceptionally large and diverse community. I suspect the term originated in academia, whose vanguard condescendingly considers itself the betters vis-á-vis the hoi polloi who must be re-educated as to their own identity.

  20. Kiwiantz62
    March 31, 2023 at 14:55

    Banning Tik Tok serves the American dual purpose of punishing China & the Worldwide phenomenon which is Tik Tok, the highly successful Chinese created App, the most popular one in the World & the real purpose behind this ban which paves the way for Legislation to control the Internet via online censorship to clamp down & control the Cyberspace ecosystem! It’s American envy & jealousy that’s racist, insidious, petty & vindictiveness from a Nation that’s losing its mind over China’s unstoppable rise as the leading Economic Superpower & their inability to control the online narrative that shows beyond any doubt, the demise of the US Empire & the collapse of its Neoliberal World order! It’s fascinating & horrific but compulsive viewing to watch as a bystander, like watching a slow motion car crash, just watching the utter desperation of the USA, running around with it’s hair on fire, they don’t have enough fingers to plug the holes in the Dam dike as those leaks are coming thick & fast, Grab the Popcorn & enjoy the Show?

  21. Drew Hunkins
    March 31, 2023 at 14:47

    Of course none of this has anything to do with TikTok. It has everything to do with vilifying the Xi administration in Beijing, period.

    Never forget: our national security state depends on a concocted demon to justify its budgets, contracts and careerism.

  22. Rudy Haugeneder
    March 31, 2023 at 14:21

    Beware, overdue Carrington 2. Not even your electric power, hybrid, or telephone are safe from massive failure that will erase the very software I am currently using.

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