China's Ministry of State Security Uses TikTok To Identify and Profile U.S. Military Members

ByteDance ordered to improve its user portrait mining software in TikTok's 700 million user base

While this headline is for a fictional scenario at the Social Media Information Warfighter Exercise on Nov 19th, there’s no way to know that it isn’t already happening and just hasn’t been reported. In fact, the sub-heading is 100% real.


According to The Information, ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, recently placed and then deleted a job posting for a Beijing-based senior TikTok engineer whose responsibilities include “mining user portraits based on massive user behavior data.”

Earlier this year, Reuters reported that the Chinese government took a 1% stake and one of three board seats in Beijing Bytedance Technology, which holds some of the licenses for Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok (also owned by Bytedance). The licenses related to the company’s video and information platforms.

On April 4, 2019, reported that Bytedance signed a mutual cooperation agreement with China’s Ministry of Public Security (the State Police) called the National Public Security New Media Matrix. During the ceremony, Zhan Jun, Secretary of the Party Committee and Director of the Press and Propaganda Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security announced

“In the next step, we will further increase the in-depth cooperation with ByteDance in the creation and production of new media content, further enhance the public security propaganda and dissemination power, influence and credibility, and promote the in-depth development of public security organs’ media integration.

The hashtag “#militarytiktok” is popular on the platform with 1.1B views as today.


When you have the most popular social video platform in the world with almost 700 million monthly active users (all of whom are outside of China) under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, its important to understand the risks associated with using the platform. One of the best ways to understand and assess risk is to war-game a scenario.

The most useful scenarios, while fictional, are based in fact. To quote Benjamin Franklin, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

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