The popular and controversial Chinese social media platform, TikTok has come under scrutiny from Australia for the risks it poses around data privacy issues and potential foreign interference to users.
TikTok is owned by a Chinese conglomerate Bytedance and has recently opened an office in Australia. It is said that the offices of both the Attorney-General and Home Affairs are currently discussing its operations.
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia said that his government is closely watching TikTok, which has also come under intensifying scrutiny for national security risks from the U.S. after they banned Huawei.
On Friday, Morrison has told the Melbourne radio station 3AW “If we consider there is a need to take further action than we are taking now, then I can tell you we won’t be shy about it.”
Moreover, Jenny McAllister, Labor Senator and the chairwoman of a parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference, has noted through social media that around 1.6 million young Australians use the TikTok and with the ongoing security concerns the app requires further scrutiny.
Also, she told ABC radio “Some of these approaches to moderating content might be inconsistent with Australian values.” She further added, “For example, removing material about Tiananmen Square, or deprioritizing material about Hong Kong protests,” referring to 1989 protests led by students in Beijing and pro-democracy protests over the past year in Hong Kong.
For the new Australian TikTok, two of the three operational directors are senior executives of its Chinese parent, ByteDance.
Lee Hunter is one of the Australia general managers for TikTok, who was also recruited by Google around June. He has written that TikTok was “being used as a political football” to Australian politicians.
The letter said it was “critical you understand that we are independent and not aligned with any government, political party or ideology”, and added that Australia’s TikTok data was stored securely in the U.S. and Singapore.
Last week, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, in a video posted on the highly popular social media platform she appeared with an impersonator.