At least 300 employees of TikTok and its parent company ByteDance employees worked for the Chinese state media publications, and more than a dozen still do, the media reported.
LinkedIn profiles of ByteDance and TikTok employees showed them in current roles as content partnerships, strategy, policy, public affairs, monetisation and ‘media cooperation’, reports Forbes.
Profiles of 15 current ByteDance employees revealed they worked at the tech firm and state media outlets simultaneously.
“Fifteen indicate that current ByteDance employees are also concurrently employed by Chinese state media entities, including Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International and China Central/China Global Television,” the report said late on Thursday.
The LinkedIn profiles reviewed by Forbes “reveal significant connections between TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and the propaganda arm of the Chinese government, which has been investing heavily in using social media to amplify disinformation that serves the Chinese Communist Party”.
According to the report, ByteDance and TikTok did not contest that the 300 LinkedIn profiles represent current employees or deny their connections to Chinese state media.
A spokesperson for ByteDance said that the company makes “hiring decisions based purely on an individual’s professional capability to do the job”.
“For our China-market businesses, that includes people who have previously worked in government or state media positions in China. Outside of China, employees also bring experience in government, public policy, and media organisations from dozens of markets,” the company said.
Forbes identified 49 LinkedIn profiles for TikTok and ByteDance employees who previously worked for CCTV and CGTN.
Among them were CCTV’s former editor-in-chief, who now serves as ByteDance’s director of media content partnerships, and a ByteDance overseas market operator whose profile says he is still an editor for CCTV.
TikTok’s rise has generated national security concerns from US lawmakers.
TikTok recently admitted that employees outside of the country could access that information, although “robust cybersecurity controls and authorisation” from its US security team were required.
In June, Buzzfeed News reported that TikTok users’ data in the US was repeatedly accessed by employees in China.