The commissions of the House of Commons and House of Lords have followed the UK government by banning social media app TikTok over cybersecurity concerns. A parliament spokesman said that TikTok “will be blocked from all parliamentary devices and the wider parliamentary network,” a move that TikTok has described as “misguided” and “based on fundamental misconceptions” about the company.
The latest ban came as TikTok’s chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, faced hours of tough questioning by deputies in the US House of Representatives over whether the popular app is a “tool” of the Chinese Communist Party amid widespread concerns that user data from the app (owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance) could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, posing national security risks.
Ban welcomed by former Conservative leader, called a “self-defeating step” by TikTok
The ban means MPs and guests to parliament will not be able to access TikTok on devices connected to official Wi-Fi accounts – if they want to use the app on their phones, they will have to connect to their own mobile data provider. Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith welcomed the decision, adding, “It’s now time that TikTok is also banned from ministers’ personal telephones.”
In response to the ban, a TikTok spokesman said, “Despite our requests, we have not been offered any opportunity to address concerns,” Sky News reported. “Potentially depriving users from access to and engagement with their representatives is a self-defeating step, especially in our shared fight against misinformation,” they added. “We have begun implementing a comprehensive plan to further protect our European user data, which includes storing UK user data in our European data centers and tightening data access controls, including third-party independent oversight of our approach.”
TikTok chief insists app “not an agent of China”
In a US Congress hearing this week, Shou Zi Chew said that TikTok is “not an agent of China” and insisted that the video sharing app poses no risk to national security. Over several hours, Chew was pressed by deputies on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on various topics such as TikTok’s content moderation practices and the company’s spying on journalists.
“Mr. Chew, you are here because the American people need the truth about the threat TikTok poses to our national and personal security,” said the committee’s chair, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. TikTok has repeatedly chosen a path for more control, more surveillance, and more manipulation, Rodgers added.
Chew argued that TikTok parent company ByteDance prioritizes the safety of its young users, highlighting the firm’s intention to protect US user data by storing information on servers maintained and owned by server giant Oracle. Several committee members reportedly found some of Chew’s answers evasive.