The Australian Government is facing calls to ban TikTok amid concerns the social media platform poses a national security threat and users’ data may be being shared with China.
The popular video app, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, is used by more than 1.6 million Australians.
A federal MP has revealed plans to put TikTok before the Foreign Interference through Social Media senate inquiry over fears it is collecting data and storing the information on Chinese servers.
The Australian Government is facing calls to have TikTok banned amid concerns it is a national security threat that could be sharing users’ data with the Chinese government (stock image)
The MP said TikTok has flown under the radar in Australia and should be taken seriously as an effort by the Chinese Communist Party (the flag pictured) to collect data
The unnamed MP said TikTok has flown under the radar in Australia and should be considered as an effort by the Chinese Communist Party to collect data.
‘It might be dressed differently but it’s the same beast,’ the MP told the Herald Sun.
According to the MP, multiple members of parliament are pushing to have the app banned, arguing it poses a bigger threat than Chinese-owned messaging app WeChat.
Committee chair Senator Jenny McAllister said TikTok should comply with the request to be hauled before the senate inquiry as Australians will expect a response from the company.
‘Part of the job of this Committee is to get all of those stakeholders in the room and create a forum where we can have a really good discussion about what are the boundaries, about what is and isn’t acceptable on these types of matters,’ Ms McAllister said.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
- Users post videos of themselves and broadcast them on the app
- Anyone can find these videos and post comments on them
- It also allows you to message that person privately
- Some of the most popular videos are watched more than 10 million times
- Each TikTok video is generally 15 to 60 seconds long
- The videos are typically set to music, often showing the user dancing, doing a trick, or lip-syncing
Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Fergus Ryan said TikTok was full of mass surveillance and propaganda.
The app also censored all anti-China opinions and had the ability to feed information straight to Beijing, Mr Ryan said.
He said it was ‘no question’ the Chinese Communist Party had a hold of the data as there are members of the party within the company.
Foreign Interference committee member Kimberley Kitching said Australians do not understand what apps like TikTok do with their personal information.
‘Given that there is credible evidence to suggest that TikTok users’ data has been sent back to servers in China where it can then be analysed and used by authorities to identify and build profiles to track users, it would be entirely appropriate for senior representatives from that company to appear before the committee to answer questions on this,’ the Labor Senator said.
Liberal MP and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee Andrew Hastie in February claimed the app was a national security threat.
‘China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 means the Chinese Government can compel businesses to share information with them,’ he told ABC’s 7.30 at the time.
‘So, I doubt if our information is secure when it’s owned by Chinese companies.’
TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions. Pictured: A video shared by soldiers
In January TikTok was banned among all Australian Defence Force personnel over security fears.
Mr Hastie, who served in the ADF and is a vocal critic of the Chinese state, said he was worried that users’ information such as their name, age and location could be accessed by the Chinese Communist Party.
‘TikTok is largely used by teenagers but they’re our future leaders… and we need to protect their information long-term,’ he said.
Liberal MP Andrew Hastie (pictured) in February slammed the app for being a national security threat
The father-of-two, 37, also expressed fears for his own children, saying: ‘I certainly don’t want my children’s data going to a foreign country who might use it for nefarious purposes.’
TikTok is the international version of Chinese app Douyin where users create and upload short videos and Gifs with a host of functions.
The app asks users for access to their phone’s camera, microphone contact list and location when they sign up.
The company says it stores its data in the US and Singapore, not China – but experts fear it could still be accessed by the Chinese state.
Users of the app, which is now more popular than Snapchat, only have to be 13 years old to sign up – and can be contacted by anyone unless they make their profile private.
Even then, anyone can request to look at their pictures and videos, and even pretend to be another child.
A spokeswoman for TikTok Australia said there is constant work being done to ensure information on the app is safe.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted TikTok for comment.
WHAT IS TIK TOK?
TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions.
TikTok’s tagline is ‘Make every second count’.
It was the most downloaded app in the US in 2018 and the world’s fourth most downloaded app in 2018, ahead of Instagram and Snapchat.
TikTok is known in China as Douyin where it was launched in 2016 and then made more widely available around the world in 2017.
Douyin is still the version of the app used in China, available to download separately to TikTok.
Last year, the app was merged with popular music video lip-syncing app Musical.ly, also with headquarters in China.
Most children use the app to film themselves lip-syncing to chart hits.
It offers users a raft if colourful modification and editing tools including overlaying music, sound, animated stickers, filters and augmented reality (AR) for creating short videos.
The Beijing based social network has more than 500 million active users and the company is now worth more than $75 billion (£58 billion).
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