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TikTok Seen as Chinese Influence Tool by Most in US, Poll Finds

Many American adults support a forced sale or ban of TikTok, a new poll has found; a large number believe it is used by China to influence public opinion in the US, and for spying

Many American adults appear to support the move by Congress to force Bytedance to sell TikTok because it can be used to influence public opinion and espionage, a poll found. Photo: Reuters


Most Americans believe that China uses TikTok, the popular short video app, to shape US public opinion, a new poll has found. And nearly half believe Beijing uses it to spy on them.

The poll, conducted by Reuters and Ipsos, follows the passing of a new law by Congress to force Bytedance, the Chinese tech conglomerate that owns the platform, to divest it for face a ban in nine to 12 months time.

Some 58% of respondents to the two-day poll, which closed on Tuesday, agreed with a statement that the Chinese government uses TikTok, to “influence American public opinion.”

Some 13% disagreed, and the rest were unsure or didn’t answer the question. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to see China as using the app to affect US opinions.


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TikTok says it has spent more than $1.5 billion on data security efforts and would not share data on its 170 million US users with the Chinese government.

The company told Congress last year that it does “not promote or remove content at the request of the Chinese government.”

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Joe Biden signed legislation last week giving ByteDance 270 days to divest TikTok’s US assets or face a ban.

TikTok has vowed to challenge the ban as a violation of the protections of free expression enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and TikTok users are expected to again take legal action.

A US judge in Montana in November blocked a state ban on TikTok, citing free-speech concerns.


50% of adults support US ban

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found 50% of Americans supported banning TikTok, while 32% opposed a ban and the rest were unsure.

The poll only surveyed US adults and doesn’t reflect the views of people under age 18, who make up a significant portion of TikTok’s users in the United States.

About six in 10 poll respondents aged 40 and older supported a ban, compared with about four in 10 aged 18-39.

The poll showed 46% of Americans agreed with a statement that China is using the app to “spy on everyday Americans”, an allegation Beijing has denied.

The app is ubiquitous in America. Even Biden’s re-election campaign is using it as a tool to win over voters ahead of the November 5 presidential election.

Biden’s rival, Republican Donald Trump, who has criticized a potential ban and is the majority owner of the company that operates his social media app Truth Social, has not joined.

A majority of Americans, 60%, said it was inappropriate for US political candidates to use TikTok to promote their campaigns.

Biden’s signing of the law sets a January 19 deadline for a sale – one day before his term is set to expire – but he could extend the deadline by three months if he determines that ByteDance is making progress on divesting the app.

The poll, which was conducted online, gathered responses from 1,022 US adults nationwide and had a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard



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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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