A social media app owned by a China-based company should not be used by a government agency that oversees security at U.S. airports, Sen. Chuck Schumer griped on Sunday.
The Transportation Security Administration has over the last year taken to TikTok, a video-making app popular among teenagers, to cheekily inform travelers about what items they’re allowed to bring on airplanes.
The videos posted to the app often feature TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein holding up items that are banned from flights. They’re often backed by pop songs like Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.”
TSA officials have been so excited about their outreach efforts on the platform that the agency last month submitted the TikTok videos to the Shorty Awards, an annual show that recognizes unique and creative social media campaigns.
Schumer in October sent a letter to TSA administrator David Pekoske demanding he order his staff to cease the use of the app, fearing it helped the Chinese government spy on the agency.
“These videos sure do make you chuckle; they’re creative,” said Schumer. “But China might be laughing at these TSA postings for very different reasons, and that should concern us and it’s why I am urging the TSA to find a different platform, and cease its use of TikTok now.”
TSA officials were directed to stop using TikTok by the start of 2020, but the agency’s press office as recently as Feb. 11 publicly posted to the platform.
Despite the videos, Farbstein asserted the TSA “has never published any content to TikTok nor has it ever directed viewers to TikTok.”
“A small number of TSA employees have previously used Tik Tok on their personal devices to create videos for use in TSA’s social media outreach, but that practice has been discontinued,” Farbstein said.
Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro said it’s a good thing if the TSA actually stopped using TikTok.
“That was the purpose of Sunday’s event,” he said.
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