Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher said China could take advantage of social media, especially TikTok, to “create a naval problem” in the South China Sea and spread “anti-American propaganda” for geopolitical gain. Among them, making any war the U.S. pursues “extremely unpopular.”
In an interview for the American Optimist show, moderated on YouTube by Joe Lonsdale, the That ’70s Show actor spoke about the need to protect children’s privacy on social networks and said he sees “a massive regulatory battle on the horizon” regarding propaganda on TikTok.
Ashton Kutcher on propaganda on TikTok
“If I’m China and I want to create a problem in that area of the world, specifically a Naval problem in the South China Sea, I would probably want to utilize TikTok in order to influence the minds of Americans in order to make any kind of war from the United States extremely unpopular.”
TikTok, owned by Beijing-based technology giant ByteDance, is one of the fastest-growing social networks at the moment. It already has billions of users worldwide and has been downloaded some 200 million times in the United States alone.
“I think that most people believe that there is media manipulation happening and misinformation campaigns happening, just not through their sources,” Kutcher said. “I think that’s wrong and I think we’re about to face a reckoning in that particular domain and it’s going to probably change what social media looks like in the future.”
Ashton Kutcher expressed his concern as “a fervent American” that manipulation in social networks and the media is becoming”extraordinarily dangerous for, not just individuals, but for the country at large.”
“If the trend line continues on the path that it’s on today, my kids will not be on social media,” he said. If things change, he will make sure to educate them very well so that they are aware of how “people can manipulate the way you think” through these platforms.
The U.S., TikTok and the CCP
During his presidency, Donald Trump attempted to ban the use of TikTok in the United States through an executive order, while managing to put control of user data in the hands of American companies.
At the time, President Trump claimed that the app can be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Communist Party of China and that the United States “must take aggressive action against TikTok’s owners to protect our national security.”
However, the proposed ban generated controversy amid debate over whether it would pose a risk to free speech and set a precedent for banning apps in America.
President Joe Biden reversed the Republican’s executive order in June, although he will continue to monitor apps owned by China in order to protect citizens’ personal data.