The TSA said it never used TikTok out of national security concerns, but videos on official agency accounts and from TSA officials appear to contradict that



TikTok/Mary Meisenzahl

TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein's TikTok videos were reposted to the official TSA Instagram account.

  • The TSA says it has stopped allowing employees to use Chinese-owned video app TikTok.
  • TSA also told the Associated Press that it didn't publish content directly to TikTok or publish content directly to the platform. 
  • However, videos from TikTok are still available on TSA's Instagram account, and on official accounts for agency spokespeople.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Transportation Security Administration has become the latest government agency to ban TikTok after national security concerns, but the agency's statement on how it used the Chinese-owned app appears to contradict its own actions.

On February 23, the Associated Press reported that the TSA would no longer allow employees to post on TikTok after a letter from Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, warned about a potential cybersecurity risk. In a statement, the TSA said that a  "small number of TSA employees have previously used TikTok on their personal devices to create videos for use in TSA's social media outreach, but that practice has since been discontinued." It also told the AP that it never directed followers to TikTok or published directly on the platform.

But the TSA's own Instagram account seems to dispute the agency's statement. As of writing this, at least 12 different videos, shown from the TikTok accounts "@TSA_gov" and "@TSA" are viewable on the TSA's official Instagram account. The TikTok videos are saved under a highlighted story titled "Videos" on the account.

TSA Instagram


The TikTok videos reposted to the TSA Instagram account also prominently feature TSA public affairs spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. Farbstein, a TSA official, has also shared TikTok videos from the account @TSA on her Twitter as recently as February 11. The official TSA Twitter account frequently retweeted her posts. The TSA referenced its social media strategy in response to Schumer's letter and is also currently competing for a Shorty social media award.

Neither the @TSA nor @TSA_gov TikTok accounts still exists, though the reposted videos are still viewable on Twitter and Instagram. TikTok did not respond to requests for comment.

It appears the TSA did not link to the app, although the distinction might not mean much. To share videos on Twitter and Instagram, users commonly download the videos from TikTok and reupload them. But the prominent TikTok logo on the videos, plus the names of the accounts that created them, may direct interested viewers to TikTok. 

One thing is clear: Videos initially posted to TikTok under TSA branding prominently feature agency representatives and have been shared by agency officials and official agency accounts - even though it said it never published on the platform nor directed followers to it.

TikTok has been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times. The video platform, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has faced concerns of censorship. In September, The Guardian saw internal documents that instructed moderators to censor content that could anger the Chinese government, including mentions of Tiananmen Square or Tibetan Independence. In a statement, TikTok said that these policies were no longer in use as of last May. Senators Marco Rubio, Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton have been critical of TikTok and asked for investigations into potential cybersecurity risks. The US military had previously banned the app after a warning from the Pentagon.

The TSA did not respond to a request for comment.

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