State governments led by both Republicans and Democrats have been restricting or banning the Chinese social media platform TikTok in recent months amid revelations about the surveillance the company is likely conducting on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Meanwhile, recently revealed White House visitor logs show TikTok lobbyists have enjoyed repeated audiences with Joe Biden.
The logs were obtained by the Washington Examiner and show no less than eight White House visits by TikTok and ByteDance lobbyists took place between July 2021 and August 2022. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, which is based in China.
Open invitation: TikTok lobbyists repeatedly scored visits to Biden White House, records reveal
— Gabe Kaminsky (@gekaminsky) January 10, 2023
Heritage Foundation Tech Policy Center director Kara Frederick said the logs do not indicate the details of what the lobbyists discuss in their numerous visits to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. However, she said the fact they occurred at all is “unequivocally worrisome.”
Frederick told the Examiner, “These people are doing the dirty work of the Chinese party state.”
“I don’t think we should mince words when it comes to that. They know what they’re doing,” she added.
The logs show that Paul Thornell, a lobbyist with the firm Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, visited the White House three times last year.
When asked to comment on whether TikTok was the subject of his official visits with the administration, Thornell only said, “I’ll take a pass on that.”
More than a dozen states have banned the app so far. In addition, the U.S. military and TSA have issued regulations prohibiting employees from downloading TikTok to their devices.
As state governors and legislators have been taking steps to eliminate TikTok from public equipment, Congress has been considering federal legislation that would ban the platform entirely inside the United States.
National security experts have repeatedly warned that the platform and ByteDance capture private user data from American journalists and untold numbers of other domestic users. Under Chinese law, every company based there must cooperate with the CCP-controlled government to provide digital information on demand, regardless of confidentiality issues.
Other experts have said TikTok is dangerous for American teenagers and has actively meddled in U.S. elections.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said in November that “TikTok is China’s digital fentanyl.”
Carr added that banning the Chinese app “is a basic IQ test for the Biden administration.”