back to article US cyber spymaster calls TikTok China's 'Trojan horse'

TikTok is China's "Trojan horse," according to Rob Joyce, who heads the cyber security unit of America's National Security Agency.  Joyce, speaking at the Silverado Policy Accelerator's conference on Monday, called TikTok "a strategic issue." This, as opposed to the type of tactical, day-to-day cyber threats the US spy agency …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Straight shootin'

    It's fortunate that the $600 billion per annum trade deficit with China and decades of outsourcing is not a Trojan Horse but rather a self-sufficient real man's cowboy horse to be ridden into the glorious sunset. Otherwise we would really have something to worry about. /s

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Straight shootin'

      Priorities, priorities.

  2. veti Silver badge

    Note that the issue is not that TikTok's terms or business model, or even their track record on censorship, are any worse than Alphabet's or Meta's. No, the point of the complaint, the hinge of the whole panic is simply the amount of time kids spend on it.

    In other words, TikTok is being punished for doing what they do better than the Americans can manage it. Like Huawei, their basic sin is simply being too good.

    That doesn't fit with the usual American narrative of backwards, intellectually stunted Chinese needing to steal all their innovation from the west. And what makes it particularly awkward is that any real, meaningful social defence you create against it - would work just as well, or better, against American social media too.

    Naked protectionism is the only weapon the feds dare use against it. And they're not even slightly ashamed to do it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      While I think there are bigger fish to fry,

      it's worth mentioning that Google, Facebook, and a host of other US internet related companies are banned or subject to extreme restrictions w.r.t operating in China. It would be perfectly "tit for tat"-reasonable to respond in kind, without resorting the more extreme and xenophobic arguments.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It would be perfectly "tit for tat"-reasonable to respond in kind

        Of course. They started it, right?

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      "All urSecrets belong to US" ..... said the Spider to the Fly :-)

      Naked protectionism is the only weapon the feds dare use against it. And they're not even slightly ashamed to do it. ....veti

      Such obvious unashamed activism very clearly reveals Uncle Sam's Achilles heel, and that is a self-defeating strategy which more than just highlights their systemic catastrophic weaknesses for further exploitation rather than safeguarding them from any superior advanced and advancing competition and opposition in novel fields of myriad disruptive national, international and universal internetional safety and security interest.

      Such a reaction also suggests a dire straits lack of National Security Agency intelligence to aid and abet POTUS in their assumptive role presuming to be de facto clear leader of the free world with a Project for the New American Century, and that is disappointing and disturbing to friends and frenemies alike and encouraging and exciting to hostile enemies, both domestic and foreign.

      Fixing that requires nothing less than a complete change of intelligence via infusions introducing provision, mentoring and monitoring of products and projects with novel SMARTR universal intelligence routes supplying core root ore for future finer information processing targeting deeper and darker metadata base mining operations in Advanced IntelAIgent Development in the Postmodern Live Operational Virtual Environment so beloved of Metaverses.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      And, of all the sources of this protectionaism, it's the very agency that doesn't give a flying fig about privacy.

      Talk about ironic . . .

    4. C.Carr

      Welcome, Wumao. Y'all are indeed getting better.

      The issue isn't merely that kids spend a lot of time on it, it's that they spend a lot of time on it *and* the CCP can do whatever they want with that attention. Bytedance has zero ability to refuse Beijing. Chinese government control over Bytedance is unparalleled in Europe or the USA (although the CCP has banned US social media, search, online tools, etc, anyway).

      If tomorrow an app out of Sweden took American youths by storm, and stole all the attention away from TikTok, no one in the US government would give two sharts.

      1. veti Silver badge

        For what it's worth, I agree that TikTok is toxic and I'm not shedding any tears for it.

        But I severely doubt that "an app out of Sweden" would simply be allowed to eat YouTube's lunch, either. America will protect its own - by which I mean its tech titans, not its youth.

    5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Sure, it's a protectionist stance, there's a strong undercurrent of Orientalist1 racism, and TikTok is being punished for success. All true.

      That doesn't mean TikTok isn't moderately to severely awful, or that it's not a problem that a great many young people in particular are obsessed with it, or that it can't be used to project "soft power" in ways that are favorable to China and unfavorable to the US. Someone can be right for the wrong reasons, and not all of the reasons here are wrong.

      Personally, I'm a strong proponent of freedom of expression and still unwilling to agree with a TikTok ban. But I recognize that it's pretty toxic. (I did, however, enjoy Ryan George's YouTube piece about TikTok, so, y'know, feel free to call me hypocritical.)

      1In the sense of Edward Said's most famous work, though the "Orient" he was primarily talking about was not the Far East.

  3. chuckufarley Silver badge


    ...Are going to "Authoritate." It doesn't matter if it is the Chinese, or Russia, or Cuba, or Tennessee, or Nigeria. Authorianation is an awesome word that I just made up. It's bit like "Truthiness" in that encapsulates a form of propaganda used by a modern political and/or government entity. Authorianation is to be expect because this is what the enemies of freedom do. It is not really new and if you think about I am sure you will find other examples of it.

    The danger isn't the messenger though. The danger is not investing in a free country's future. Education is the only way to stop propaganda and it only works if people are willing to learn.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Authoritarians...

      Education, yes, but you have to climb Maslow's ladder. Most people have to have their basic needs addressed before they have much capacity for or interest in education. For a "rich nation" the US has far too much food insecurity, housing insecurity, and so on. The sky-high incarceration rate and dangerist War On Parenting are also problems. Dumping domestic problems on a completely unsuited police force is a grievous error.

      Then when you get to the school system, you have chronic underfunding and anti-intellectual lunatics like DeSantis trying to burn everything down.

      TikTok's pretty low on the list of actual problems, and if we're raising a generation that feels a little shittier about America, well, we deserve most of the blame.

  4. skeptical i

    another communist plot

    re: "... a generation of American civic, nonprofit, military, government leaders who, day by day minute by minute, just feel a little shittier about America"

    Not to dismiss the potential of TikTok to nudge viewers' opinions, but America still not being in reality what it says on the tin is not new news. Which probably fits nicely into some people's agenda to find another way to discredit any criticism of Amurka (however well documented or researched) as just another communist plot to steal our freedom.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: another communist plot

      If you're concerned about brainwashing and subversion, closing down FaceBook, Twitter and all the services that encourage conspiracy theorists would be a lot more relevant than making up pretend stories about TikTok.

  5. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Anti-CCP Messages

    This should be easy enough to test.

    Make up two sets of videos, one with a subtle anti-CCP message and one without and track their progress.

    Or better still, encourage mass participation in support of the Uighurs on TikTok and watch what happens.

  6. jgarbo

    Watched Tucker Carlson ranting about TikTok destroying American kids' brains, seducing them into teen-porn clips or toilet licking, while he "complained" that Chinese TikTok kids do science and maths puzzles to show friends. There's no "Trojan Horse". Americans are just too dumb to cross the road, read a book or count to 10. TikTok is the messenger of America's decline into moronity not its cause.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      TBH, FTucker Carlson not liking something is about the best recommendation you can get. Heck, now I am even interested.

      (not really, but that wonderface monkey exemplifies all that's wrong with Fox)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Chinese creep

    While the Americans* sleep

    * Other democracies are available.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Bigots creep

      while the world gets ready to shrug humanity off

  8. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge


    The Trojan cavalry charge.

  9. Robin Bradshaw

    They are going to loose their mind when they find out where their Lenovo laptops come from.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      .. or who actually invented the gunpowder they use so enthusiastically to kill kids. :(

  10. jmch Silver badge

    Ultimate soft power

    All nations want to project a positive image of themselves and a negative one of their rivals/enemies, and have always done so ever since Homer was writing about those evil wife-stealing Trojans. In the age of mass media it was relatively easy to influence your own masses through a few TV stations and newspapers and a couple of movie studios. Nowadays the ultimate way of deciding who gets to see what is platforms.

    NSA etc know very well what can be done just by delicately selectively showing a targeted subset of people some videos and not others - they know it can heavily influence public opinion and elections because its already been done by Cambridge Analytica. As usual, the problem that the US (and all other) government(s) have with these platforms isn't that they subtly influence public opinion. It's that THEY aren't the ones with the power to wield that influence.

    As to TikTok, I wouldn't worry so much either way. Facebook seemed like an unstoppable behemoth, until the mass of people on it saw their parents on it and started to have kids themsleves, so the teenagers moved to Instagram. As the Instagrammers start having their own sprogs, the cool teens are now on TikTok. Guaranteed that within 5 years the relevance of TikTok will be dwindling, not because of any technology but because a new generation of teenagers will want to find a platform that their parents aren't on.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Multiple Choices of "Trojan Horse" on.....

    Heading was: "US cyber spymaster calls TikTok China's 'Trojan horse' "

    But there are a few possible a more sensible world than the one we live in:

    (1) "German cyber spymaster calls Cisco Systems the USA's 'Trojan horse' "

    (2) "Russian cyber spymaster calls Five Eyes the USA's 'Trojan horse' "

    (3) "Chinese cyber spymaster calls Kim Kardashian the USA's 'Trojan horse' "

    (4) "EFF calls Amazon's Ring the USA's 'Trojan horse' "

    ....and so on........

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Multiple Choices of "Trojan Horse" on.....

      Thank you for the mental image of a dozen burly armoured Greeks huddled inside a wooden Kim Kardashian.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Multiple Choices of "Trojan Horse" on.....

        Must ... resist ... obvious ... pornography ... joke.

  12. iron Silver badge

    Ban Facebook, Twitter, Insta, Snap, Slack, Teams, Discord, Apple Messenger and every other app from the USA.

    USA companies have to do what the USA gov tells them and they are used as spying tools by everyone from the head of hte NSA to small town redneck sheriffs.

  13. hj

    Fair point

    " Beijing could "manipulate the data" that Americans see, Joyce continued, adding that this could include presenting "divisive materials." This may unduly influence their political and social leanings." Fair enough,but than you should ban Fox News too!

  14. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Sounds crazy, but....

    What about educating young people to help them to develop a critical spirit?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Report in last 24-hrs (see BrrakingPoints) says and anti-TikTok bill is Trojan for Patriot Act 2.0

    They said the bill never actually mentions TikTok by name but:

    1. Is overly broad to catch multiple scenarios.

    2. The definition at the end broadens it so whatever organization they choose.

    3. The definition is dictated isn't dictated by Congress but Secretary of Commerce.

    4. The anti-TikTok bill doesn't actually name TikTok (to leave it active after its use).

    It's rude to post links but on YouTube

    "TikTok Ban Bill Is PATRIOT ACT 2.0 Trojan Horse | Counter Points" Breaking Points channel)

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