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The Army is in hot water over TikTok recruiting activity

Despite the app’s ban, soldiers are still using the platform

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The US Army is facing pressure from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) after recruiters were caught using TikTok to find leads on young Americans to enlist, despite orders banning the app’s use on government devices.

Issued on Monday to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, Rubio’s letter comes in response to a recent report from Nextgov describing how recruiters struggle to reach young adults online. The report detailed how many Army recruiters are ignoring the military’s TikTok ban, often using their own personal devices to create videos and reach out to young users to find enlistment leads. Some recruiters, like @njrecruiter, tout nearly 500,000 followers on the platform.

In his letter, Rubio pressures Wormuth to take additional enforcement actions, citing possible threats posed by the app’s use due to its alleged ties 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 also asks Wormuth to disclose how many Army recruiters use their personal devices for recruitment purposes and whether the Army has any protocols for ensuring soldiers do not download or use TikTok in a personal capacity.

The Army first banned the use of TikTok in December 2019, but recruiters continue to use the app. Rubio also highlighted accounts like @njrecruiter, writing “I urge you to take decisive action to immediately end this practice.”

“We do not comment on correspondence between congressional members and the Secretary of the Army,” an Army spokesperson told The Verge on Tuesday. “Secretary Wormuth will respond to Senator Rubio appropriately.”

Updated 12/14/21 at 5:19PM ET: Added comment from the Army.