The U.S. and other governments should make decisions about Chinese tech companies based on human rights considerations, including the companies’ impact on the rights of people around the world—not just their own citizens.
The Chinese companies Tencent, owner of WeChat, and ByteDance, which owns TikTok, play a significant role in facilitating and entrenching the Chinese government’s censorship, surveillance, and propaganda regime inside China. There is emerging evidence that they also have a debilitating influence on rights outside the country.
ByteDance’s products catering to Chinese users—including news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, search engine Toutiao Search, and Douyin, the domestic version of TikTok—all censor what the Chinese government considers “politically sensitive” content. Articles that mention the names of top People’s Republic of China (PRC) leaders, for example, or videos uploaded by Uighurs to draw attention to their missing family members are quickly removed. The company also censored content it considered critical of the