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TikTok Said to Be Under National Security Review

在过去的12个月里,TikTok应用程序被下载了逾7.5亿次。 Joel Saget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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The United States government has opened a national security review of a Chinese company’s acquisition of the American company that became TikTok, the hugely popular short-form video app, according to people briefed on the inquiry.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a federal panel that reviews foreign acquisitions of American firms on national-security grounds, is now reviewing the two-year-old deal after lawmakers raised concerns about TikTok’s growing influence in the United States, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was confidential. One of the people said that the American government had evidence of the app sending data to China.
外国在美投资委员会(The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States)是联邦政府的一个专门小组,就国家安全审查外资收购美国公司的交易。知情人士表示,国会议员对TikTok在美国的影响力日益增长表示担忧后,该委员会目前正在审核这笔两年前的交易。因为调查是保密的,这些知情人士要求不具名。其中一人透露,美国政府已掌握了该应用程序向中国发送数据的证据。
The move is the latest in a back and forth between the United States and China, which are enmeshed in a global competition for technological dominance that has begun to cleave the high-tech world in two and start what some analysts refer to as a new Cold War.


ByteDance, a seven-year-old company based in Beijing, acquired Musical.ly in November 2017 for $800 million to $1 billion. At the time, Musical.ly, an app popular with teenagers to make homemade karaoke videos, had about 60 million users in the United States and Europe. ByteDance said it would keep Musical.ly separate from its family of Chinese apps. Less than a year later, ByteDance merged Musical.ly with its similar service, called TikTok, and the result has since become one of world’s fastest-growing apps and a global cultural phenomenon.
Over the past 12 months, TikTok’s app has been downloaded more than 750 million times, more than Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, according to the research firm Sensor Tower.
研究公司感应塔(Sensor Tower)的数据显示,在过去12个月里,TikTok应用程序被下载了逾7.5亿次,超过了Facebook、Instagram、YouTube和Snapchat。
“While we cannot comment on ongoing regulatory processes, TikTok has made clear that we have no higher priority than earning the trust of users and regulators in the U.S.,” a ByteDance spokesman said in an email. “Part of that effort includes working with Congress, and we are committed to doing so.” TikTok does not send any user data to China, he added.
Reuters earlier reported the review by the federal panel, known as CFIUS, of the Musical.ly acquisition.
China blocks many foreign companies from openly existing online in the country, but Chinese companies that have developed cutting-edge technologies are growing more popular around the world. Many lawmakers and Trump administration officials see the trend as a threat to American national security and the economy, and they have set up numerous barriers to stop Chinese firms from acquiring American data and technology.
The Trump administration prevented the Singapore-based Broadcom from purchasing Qualcomm, an American chip-maker, and quashed deals like Ant Financial’s bid for Moneygram.
President Trump has also placed Huawei and other Chinese tech firms on a blacklist that blocks them from purchasing American products over national security and human rights concerns. He has also imposed tariffs on more than $360 billion of Chinese products in a trade war that was at least partly in response to Chinese theft of American intellectual property.
U.S. government officials have been particularly alarmed by the implications of China’s 2017 national intelligence law, which contains sweeping language that requires companies to comply with intelligence gathering operations, if asked. Chinese officials have pushed back against these assertions, saying that companies should comply with local laws while abroad.
On TikTok, users create and share short, inventive videos and bizarre memes, an endless scroll of clips that has been called “the last sunny corner on the internet.” The vast majority of its footage comes from Western users, in large part because TikTok isn’t available in mainland China; ByteDance instead offers a highly similar service there called Douyin.
But TikTok’s Chinese connections and growing popularity in the United States have drawn new concern in Washington after news reports highlighted that there were few signs of the Hong Kong protests on the app and that TikTok moderators were instructed to censor videos that featured a number of political themes.
ByteDance has said that the Chinese government does not order it to censor content on TikTok. The spokesman said that the app’s content policies are led by a team in the United States and are not influenced by any government.
“To be clear: we do not remove videos based on the presence of Hong Kong protest content,” a ByteDance spokesman said.
A former content moderator for TikTok said in an interview that managers in the United States had instructed moderators to hide videos that included any political messages or themes, not just those related to China. The moderator spoke on the condition of anonymity because he didn’t want to speak publicly about a former employer while seeking another job in the tech industry.
The moderator said that the policy was to allow such political posts to remain on users’ profile pages but to prevent them from being shared more widely in TikTok’s main video feed. The person said that while moderators were told to censor racy videos, such as those featuring scantily clad women, in Muslim countries, he never received specific instructions to censor content related to China.
The ByteDance spokesman said the company had recently changed the policy restricting political videos and called the previous rules a blunt approach intended to keep the app fun.
Last month, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who leads CFIUS, urging him to open a national security review of ByteDance’s purchase of Muscial.ly.
上个月,佛罗里达州共和党参议员马尔科·卢比奥(Marco Rubio)致信财政部长史蒂文·姆努钦(Steven Mnuchin),敦促他对字节跳动收购Muscial.ly的交易进行国家安全审查,姆努钦是CFIUS的负责人。
“There continues to be ample and growing evidence that TikTok’s platform for Western markets, including those in the U.S., is censoring content that is not in line with the Chinese Government and Communist Party directives,” Mr. Rubio wrote.
Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the Senate minority leader, said the security review was “validation of our concern that apps like TikTok — that store massive amounts of personal data accessible to foreign governments — may pose serious risks to millions of Americans.”
参议院少数党领袖、纽约州民主党人查克·舒默(Chuck Schumer)说,安全审查“证实了我们的担忧,即像TikTok这样的应用程序——存储了外国政府可以访问的大量个人数据——可能对数以百万计的美国人带来严重的风险”。
Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, said that new guidelines passed by Congress last year about personal data clearly indicate that CFIUS should review the purchase. He said the companies would likely have to take steps to convince the administration that American data would be secure.
保守派智库美国企业研究所(American Enterprise Institute)的驻所学者史剑道(Derek Scissors)说,美国国会去年通过的有关个人数据新的指导方针已明确表明,CFIUS应该对这笔交易进行审查。他说,这些公司很可能不得不采取措施,让政府相信美国的数据是安全的。
“It’s a large transaction, it’s a tech transaction, and it does involve American users transferring data to a Chinese firm,” Mr. Scissors said. “I don’t see how they get away with not taking some sort of mitigation here.”
The ByteDance spokesman said the company hired a consulting firm in Colorado called Special Counsel to analyze TikTok’s app to understand where it sent user data.
字节跳动的发言人说,公司聘请了科罗拉多州一家名为Special Counsel的咨询公司,对该应用程序进行了分析,方便了解它将用户数据发到哪里。
Data about TikTok users, including their videos, names, dates of birth and other information, was stored exclusively on computer servers in Virginia and Singapore, said Douglas Brush, who led the analysis for Special Counsel. He added that in the analysis from July to October, which included interviews with TikTok employees and a review of the app’s underlying computer code, his team found no way TikTok could send data to China during those months.
在Special Counsel负责分析工作的道格拉斯·布拉什(Douglas Brush)说,有关TikTok用户的数据,包括他们的视频、姓名、出生日期和其他信息,只存储在位于弗吉尼亚州和新加坡的服务器上。他补充说,分析是在7月至10月做的,其中包括与TikTok员工的面谈,以及审查该应用程序的计算机源代码,他的团队在分析中没有发现TikTok在这几个月里将数据发送到中国的任何可能方法。
ByteDance has tried to build its relationships in Washington amid the growing scrutiny. TikTok has joined NetChoice, a trade association that has been aggressive in pushing back on critics of tech companies. One of Bytedance’s own staff members registered to lobby for the company this summer. The company also hired the powerful corporate law firm Covington & Burling — whose clients include Facebook, among others — to advocate on its behalf.
面临日益严格的审查,字节跳动试图在华盛顿建立关系。TikTok已加入了行业协会NetChoice,该协会一直在积极回击对科技公司的批评。今年夏天,字节跳动的一名员工为给公司从事游说活动进行了注册。该公司还聘请了实力强大的企业律所科文顿(Covington & Burling),该律所的客户包括Facebook等。
In total, ByteDance spent $120,000 on its federal lobbying operation last quarter, according to a public disclosure posted last week.
TikTok announced last month that it was working with the law firm K&L Gates on its moderation policies, and it joined a nonprofit organization focused on children’s online safety. In February, ByteDance agreed to pay a $5.7 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission to settle accusations that Musical.ly illegally collected information on users under 13.
TikTok上个月宣布,它正在与高盖茨律师事务所(K&L Gates)就平台的审核政策问题一起展开工作,并加入了一个关注儿童网络安全的非盈利组织。今年2月,字节跳动同意向联邦贸易委员会(Federal Trade Commission)支付570万美元罚款,以了结对Musical.ly非法收集13岁以下用户信息的指控。
“We’ve just gotten started,” said Bart Gordon, the K&L Gates partner working with TikTok, on Friday.
“我们才刚刚开始,”与TikTok一起工作的高盖茨律所合伙人巴特·戈登(Bart Gordon)上周五说。

David McCabe对本文有报道贡献。

Jack Nicas自旧金山报道科技新闻。加入《纽约时报》前,他曾为《华尔街日报》工作七年,负责报道科技、航空及国内新闻。欢迎在TwitterFacebook上关注他。

Mike Isaac是驻旧金山的科技记者,主要报道优步、Facebook和推特等公司。此前他曾供职于Re/Code、AllThingsD及 《连线》杂志,以为《Paste》杂志和Performer撰写音乐稿件开启职业生涯。欢迎在TwitterFacebook上关注他。

Ana Swanson是《纽约时报》华盛顿分社的贸易记者。她此前在《华盛顿邮报》工作,报道贸易、美联储和经济新闻。欢迎在Twitter上关注她 @AnaSwanson

翻译:Cindy Hao


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Summary | 1 Annotations
Chinese officials have pushed back against these assertions, saying that companies should comply with local laws while abroad.
2019/11/08 08:09