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National security group launches 7-figure ad campaign targeting TikTok

FIRST ON FOX: A newly formed national security group is unveiling a seven-figure ad campaign targeting TikTok and seeking to expose its ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

FIRST ON FOX: A fledgling national security watchdog group launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign Wednesday, seeking to expose the popular social media platform TikTok as a tool of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

State Armor Action – the 501(c)(4) arm of the nonprofit State Armor – is spearheading the campaign, which will mainly feature targeted digital and national TV advertisements. The campaign warns that "TikTok is the CCP" and highlights the role of Zhang Fuping, a CCP official who appears to have assumed a senior role at TikTok parent company ByteDance, a billion-dollar tech firm based in Beijing.

"TikTok is a dangerous, sophisticated communist propaganda and espionage tool. Zhang Fuping’s prominent role as propagandist-in-chief at ByteDance proves this," State Armor founder and CEO Michael Lucci told Fox News Digital. "Through TikTok, Communist Party agents have direct access to over 100 million phones in America, leaving them well positioned to have a serious, malign influence on our everyday discourse and even our 2024 elections."

"TikTok routinely pushes propaganda that is designed to undermine everything Americans hold dear: our family values, our way of life, the mental health of our youth, and even the very basis for our constitutional government," Lucci said. "Worse, this deluge of ideological brainwashing is directed specifically toward vulnerable young people."

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TikTok’s critics have long called the platform a national security threat. They have cited concerns about the Chinese government’s ability to leverage its power over ByteDance to access sensitive user data, even in the U.S., something the company has denied.

And China hawks have warned that the app’s popularity among young Americans gives the ruling CCP a platform for a mass-influence campaign.

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"As long as it remains under the control of Fuping, ByteDance, and the Communist Party, TikTok is a dangerous tool in the hands of a dangerous enemy, and it must be taken away before it is too late," Lucci added.

According to various Chinese media reports, Fuping has had a leadership role at ByteDance since 2017 and was once described as the company's editor-in-chief. 

In March 2023, TikTok CEO Shou Chew told lawmakers during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing that Fuping is not his boss and that the pair didn't frequently work together. Chew added that Fuping "works on the Chinese business" of ByteDance – "not on TikTok."

"Zhang Fuping has no role at, or influence on, TikTok," TikTok wrote in a May 2023 letter to the committee.

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Meanwhile, the ad campaign on Wednesday comes one week after the House passed a bipartisan bill in a 352-65 vote that could ultimately lead to TikTok being banned nationwide. Under the bill – which was crafted by House CCP Committee Chair Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill. – TikTok would be blocked in the U.S. if ByteDance does not divest from it within 165 days of passage.

ByteDance and TikTok didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

State Armor was launched in January as a national security group particularly focused on exposing China's encroachment and ginning up support for bipartisan legislation aimed at curbing Chinese influence in the U.S.

Fox News Digital reporter Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.

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