Forbes Magazine believes that about 300 people currently working for social media giant TikTok and its Chinese developer ByteDance have roots in China’s propaganda industry.

Forbes finds listed Chinese state media publications in their career background on LinkedIn. That includes the three that were categorized by the State Department as “foreign government functionaries” in 2020, namely Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International, and China Central or China Global Television. 

39 resumes used to work for Xinhua News, with one content strategy manager as a former Chief Correspondent for the agency. Additionally, 49 employees for both TikTok and ByteDance are former members of CCTV and its global arm CGTN’s workforce.  

ByteDance’s head of media content partnerships and international market operator was an ex-editor-in-chief for CCTV. He remains an editor for the news agency. 24 were employed by the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily. Others were previous personnel at China Daily and the newspaper of the Communist Youth League of China, China Youth Daily.

15 accounts have roles in both state media outlets and ByteDance simultaneously. 

Forbes discovers that 50 present TikTok workers with state-media backgrounds participate in localization, policy, strategy, operations, monetization, and operations. The outlet explains that such vocations are responsible for adapting products for international markets.

It comments, “The LinkedIn profiles raise further concerns that China could use TikTok’s broad cultural influence in the U.S. for its own ends.”

The report adds that 23 accounts seem to be created by current ByteDance executives, which oversee the departments in charge of content partnerships, public affairs, corporate social responsibility, and media collaboration. 

Forbes reports that ByteDance is closely cooperating with the Chinese government’s propaganda arm, which is infamous for exploiting social media sites to spread information that would align with the Chinese Communist Party’s interests. 

The outlet says ByteDance and TikTok did not dispute that the 300 LinkedIn accounts have links to Chinese state media. They did not deny their affiliation with the publications either.

James Lewis, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says, “The Communist Party loves TikTok and I’m sure they’re trying to figure out how to use it, which is bad news for ByteDance. Because being the Communist Party’s favorite child means unwanted attention.”

Besides the Chinese viral video platform, Forbes also sorted out ex-employees for Chinese state media that are now holding posts at U.S. social media tyrants. This includes 14 Meta, Facebook, and Instagram workers and 23 others at either Google or YouTube.

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