The clip, which has over 6 million views, shows a Panera Bread worker placing a frozen bag of their macaroni and cheese into a vat of boiling water.
Two senators across political parties are concerned about TikTok’s ever-increasing popularity and influence in the United States.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., jointly sent a formal request to intelligence officials to investigate and provide a congressional briefing on the possible counterintelligence risks posed by the social media app TikTok, according to a press release Thursday.
The popular short-form video app, owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance, has come under scrutiny for not showing any information on the Hong Kong protests. A report published late September by the Guardian found that its moderators were told to censor references to Tianenmen Square and Taiwanese and Tibetan independence.
The senators referenced this report in their letter, stating that material “deemed politically sensitive to the Chinese Communist Party” is reportedly hidden from TikTok.
TikTok is unavailable in China; instead, ByteDance offers a domestic version of the app called Douyin. Because of this technicality, Schumer and Cotton wrote that they are concerned that “ByteDance is still required to adhere to the laws of China.”
Additional concerns stem from the possibility that TikTok may be exploited for foreign influence campaigns, as was the case with Facebook during the 2016 election.
Further, a Wall Street Journal report published Monday found that ISIS militants have been posting propaganda and torture videos on the site, in a possible effort to recruit using the service. The videos have since been removed.
The app has been downloaded over 94 million times since its launch in the United States, Adam Blacker, the vice president of insights at app analytics company Apptopia, told USA TODAY. Nearly half of TikTok’s users, he added, are under the age of 20.
An AFP collaborator poses for a picture using the smart phone application TikTok on December 14, 2018 in Paris. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Representatives from TikTok repudiated these claims in a statement published Thursday, emphasizing the fact that none of its data is “subject to Chinese law” since it is stored in the United States and backed up in Singapore.
“We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked,” TikTok’s statement said. “We are not influenced by any foreign government, including the Chinese government; TikTok does not operate in China, nor do we have any intention of doing so in the future.”
A representative from TikTok confirmed to USA TODAY that Douyin and TikTok do not share data or content with one another.
Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote
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