Actor Ashton Kutcher warned during an interview last month that he believes China will try to use the popular video-sharing app TikTok to create and spread “anti-U.S. propaganda” to impressionable young American users of the app.
During a June 29 interview with Joe Lonsdale of the “American Optimist” podcast, Kutcher said, “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 an anti-U.S. propaganda, anti-Taiwanese propaganda effort in order to make any kind of war from the United States extraordinarily unpopular, in order to defend the South China Sea.”
The “That 70’s Show” actor brought up TikTok as he discussed the technology and social media policies he and his wife Mila Kunis have with their two children, aged four and six years.
The 43-year-old Kutcher, who is also the co-founder of the Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children foundation, said he doesn’t anticipate having to worry about his kids heavily using social media for a few more years, but he is worried about the future of social media and the influences it will have on his children when they begin to use it in the future.
“I see a massive regulatory battle on the horizon, for a company like TikTok,” Kutcher said earlier in the interview.
Kutcher noted TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, “Which is one of the most powerful [artificial intelligence] engines in the world in China.”
Kutcher went on to say, “I think that most people believe that there is media manipulation happening, and misinformation campaigns happening, just not through their sources, and I think that that’s wrong and I think we’re about to face a reckoning in that particular domain that is going to probably change what social media looks like in the future.”
“My sense, as a fervent American, is that it’s getting extraordinarily dangerous for, not just individuals, but for the country at large,” Kutcher continued. “And so my sense is that what social media is today is not what social media is going to be in five years.”
Kutcher said if the current trends with social media continue, “my kids will not be on social media.”
“If the trend-line pivots, as I think it likely will, there’s a chance that I will likely use it, and then the day will come where they’re going to do what they want to do and they’ll be extraordinarily educated as to how people can manipulate the way you think.”
As president, Donald Trump tried to ban ByteDance from operating in the U.S. and force the company to hand over its U.S.-based TikTok operations to a U.S. company, citing concerns the Chinese company is mass-gathering U.S. users data. Last month President Joe Biden signed executive orders reversing the Trump-era efforts to ban ByteDance’s U.S. TikTok operations. Biden said he is still concerned that Chinese apps present a risk to U.S. user data, but that he wants a more “evidence-based analysis” before taking any specific actions.