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US lawmakers warn of growing disinformation campaigns from China

US lawmakers warn of growing disinformation campaigns from China
US lawmakers warn that the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to spread disinformation will continue to increase ahead of the 2024 US election. As VOA correspondent Catherine Gypson reports, the main concern for lawmakers is the social media company TikTok.

US lawmakers warned on Thursday that the most important front in the competition between the United States and China may be in mobile phones.

“TikTok is probably the biggest malicious influence operation ever. Allowing an entity controlled by the Chinese Communist Party to dominate America's media platforms would be a very big mistake," said Rep. Mike Callagher, chairman of the House China Committee.

The spread of misinformation on various social media platforms, including TikTok, can quickly get out of hand, US lawmakers say.

"The completely fake images of Donald Trump are an indication of what we should expect in the future. As technology improves, so will technological skills and fake material will pass through social media undetected,” said Democratic lawmaker Raja Krishnamoorthi.

How TikTok works is the biggest concern for lawmakers and pundits.

"TikTok is a more sophisticated capability, as at least in theory, it can target specific messages to specific audiences and demographics around the world. There is an algorithm that no one can review and it is found in China. And the Chinese state has not allowed the sale of this algorithm," says John Garnaut, from the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy.

But Chinese business practices can also compromise social media owners.

"Elon Musk may be particularly exposed to pressure from Beijing, as he has strong business interests in China. And the Chinese Communist Party is very efficient in using foreign businesses to force them to follow the party line," says Yaqiu Wang, from the Freedom House organization.

Experts told lawmakers that TikTok is increasingly becoming the main source of news for Americans, especially young people, but that laws could be passed to stop the spread of misinformation.

"Regulations are needed to require transparency from all social media platforms, including policies on content control, enforcement of laws, which materials they censor or widely disseminate at the request of governments," says Ms. Wang.

A federal judge in Montana decided on Thursday the first measure to block TikTok, calling this platform unconstitutional./ VOA

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