A US Army soldier’s video featuring several female soldiers dancing in their barracks went viral this week on the popular China-based social media app TikTok. Soldiers continue to use the app that the Army called a “cyber threat” in December 2019 when the service banned it from government-owned phones.
In the video posted on TikTok by user pvt.chuck and later reposted to Twitter, 11 female soldiers dance to the song “Freakum Dress” by Beyonce. The soldiers appear to be responding to a challenge from another TikTok user who wrote, “You didn’t understand the assignment. We’re talking the WHOLE Barricks [sic] doing 250%.”
The video amassed 1.2 million views on TikTok in four days, and more than 722,000 on Twitter.
The TikTok bio of the soldier who posted the viral video states, “not representing DOD this is all light hearted fun here.”
In 2019, the Army banned TikTok from all government-owned phones after the Defense Information Systems Agency recommended that all Defense Department personnel reject the Chinese-owned app.
“It is considered a cyber threat,” Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa told Military.com at the time. “We do not allow it on government phones.”
While military personnel are allowed to use the app on their personal phones, the Defense Department has warned troops to exercise caution.
“The message directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information,” Lt. Col. Crystal X. Boring, an Army PAO, told NBC News in an email. “The guidance is to be wary of applications you download, monitor your phones for unusual and unsolicited texts etc. and delete them immediately and uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal information.”
Last month, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth highlighting how Army recruiters are ignoring the military’s TikTok ban in order to reach young adults online, The Verge reported.
Sen. Rubio urged Wormuth to strengthen enforcement of the app’s ban due to its connection to the Chinese Communist Party.
“Armed with biometric and other personal data, the CCP is able to track, monitor, and collect information on Americans anywhere in the world,” Rubio wrote. “From a military perspective, it can track troop movements, build source networks, or compile biographic profiles on military members for purposes of intelligence collection, exploitation, and manipulation.”
Rubio asked Wormuth to reveal the number of Army recruiters who use their personal phones to recruit young adults online.
In August 2020, TikTok circumvented a privacy safeguard implemented on Google’s Android operating system in order to collect the online information of potentially millions of users.