National Intelligence Office Says TikTok Leading Threat

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence included social media platform TikTok as a leading threat in a recent report.

The annual threat assessment, released last month, “focuses on the most direct, serious threats to the United States primarily during the next year.” Some of the threats discussed in the report include state actors, technology, international conflicts, environmental elements, and organized crime.

Discussing malign influence operations, the report said, “Beijing is expanding its global covert influence posture to better support the CCP’s goals. The PRC aims to sow doubts about U.S. leadership, undermine democracy, and extend Beijing’s influence. Beijing’s information operations primarily focus on promoting pro-China narratives, refuting U.S.promoted narratives, and countering U.S. and other countries’ policies that threaten Beijing’s interests, including China’s international image, access to markets, and technological expertise.”

TikTok is part of China’s influence operation, according to the report. “China is demonstrating a higher degree of sophistication in its influence activity, including experimenting with generative AI,” it read. “TikTok accounts run by a PRC propaganda arm reportedly targeted candidates from both political parties during the U.S. midterm election cycle in 2022.”

China is expected to interfere in the 2024 elections because of its “desire to sideline critics of China and magnify U.S. societal divisions.”

“PRC actors’ have increased their capabilities to conduct covert influence operations and disseminate disinformation,” the report continued. “Even if Beijing sets limits on these activities, individuals not under its direct supervision may attempt election influence activities they perceive are in line with Beijing’s goals.”

The report comes as the RAND Corporation published testimony from policy researcher Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga regarding the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts into “cyber-enabled influence operations” (IO).

By adopting “cognitive domain operations,” the Chinese military is focused on a “psychological or cognitive decision to surrender, as compared with the 20th century construct of total warfare and complete physical exhaustion of adversary military capabilities and resources,” according to Beauchamp-Mustafaga.

The CCP has used “synthetic information,” which was described as the production of “inauthentic content based on some amount of original information,” as well as social media algorithms, to enable “precision cognitive attacks.”