British Parliament Shuts Down Its TikTok Account

The British Parliament has closed its TikTok account after only 6 days after MPs raised concerns about the risk of data being passed to the Chinese government. The MPs had alleged that TikTok would be obliged to hand “personal data on our children’s phones” over to the Chinese government if requested. Senior MPs and peers had called for the account to be removed until TikTok gave "credible assurances" no data could be handed to China.

The account was set up on the popular app, owned by Chinese parent firm ByteDance, as a way of engaging young people with politics and it has been locked, and content deleted.

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, which has denied it was controlled by the Chinese government.
Relations between London and Beijing have been fraught in recent years, with tensions heightened by China's sanctioning of several MPs last year. A UK Parliament spokesman said: 'Based on Member feedback, we are closing the pilot UK Parliament TikTok account earlier than we had planned. 'The account was a pilot initiative while we tested the platform as a way of reaching younger audiences with relevant content about Parliament.'

Peers and MPs, including former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and recent Tory leadership contender Tom Tugendhat, stated these concerns in a letter, which they wrote to the speakers of the Houses of Commons and Lords calling for it to be deleted. In the letter, the peers and MPs, who have been sanctioned by the Chinese government for speaking out about human rights abuses in the country, said they were "surprised and disappointed" by Parliament's decision to set up the account. 

The letter said the data security risks associated with the app were "considerable". “Data security risks associated with the app are considerable. This issue led to the United States Government to restrict use of the app in 2020. Only last month, US Senators requested a further security review, in light of additional security vulnerabilities.

Under the 2017 national Intelligence Security law, Chinese companies are required to yield data to the should the parent company make a request for it, “says the parliamentarians' letter.

Recently Theo Bertram, TikTok's vice president for government relations and public policy in Europe, wrote to MP Darren Jones, the chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Bertram's letter said "we have never been asked to provide TikTok user data to the Chinese government, nor would we if asked".

Nus Ghani, one of the Tory MPs who expressed concerns about TikTok, welcomed the shut-down of Parliament's account on the app. In a Twitter message she thanked the speakers for "standing up for our values and protecting our data", adding "common sense prevails". Her tweet included a letter from the speakers, who said they "were not consulted on the plans for this pilot project".

The perceived national security risks posed by Chinese tech is one of several issues straining the London's relations with Beijing. The decision to remove of Huawei's 5G equipment from Britain's mobile networks by 2027 prompted fears of a tit-for-tat economic war in 2020. Then last year China sanctioned UK organisations and several MPs, including Sir Iain, over what it called the spreading of "lies and disinformation" about human rights abuses in its Xinjiang region.

TikTok's role in the UK's social media landscape was raised last month during the first one-on-one televised debate between Tory leadership candidates Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
BBC economics editor Faisal Islam asked Truss: "Are you going to crack down on TikTok, like some of your MPs have suggested?" In response, Truss said: "We absolutely should be cracking down on those types of companies."

Britain is not alone and in some other countries, notably including India and the United States have sought to impose restrictions on TikTok.

TikTok said it written to the MPs who signed the letter, offering to "meet with them to understand their concerns and explain our data protection processes". The social media platform also pointed to the fact many departments and politicians use TikTok, including Number 10 and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

A spokesperson for TikTok said: "While it is disappointing that Parliament will no longer be able to connect with the millions of people who use TikTok in the UK, we reiterate the offer to reassure those members of Parliament who raised concerns and clarify any inaccuracies about our platform."

TikTok:    BBC:     Daily Mail:    @Nus_Ghani:     TechMonitor:    Sky:    Telegraph:       CityAM

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