Australia joined the list of countries on alert for the TikTok platform in Chinese capitals, for possible interference with data privacy and security.
TikTok is owned by a Chinese technology company Byetdance, based in Beijing. The numerous allegations of political censorship and data exchange with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), made TikTok a sensitive point in the relations between the CCP and several countries.
Recently the company announced the opening of a commercial office in Australia, which caused a wake-up call to its rulers. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, according to the Australian media, said his government is closely monitoring the platform and acknowledges that there are suspicions surrounding the implementation. He also said, “If we consider there is a need to take further action than we are taking it now, then I can tell you we won’t be shy about it.”
Labour Sen. Jenny McAllister, chair of a parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference through social networks, identified TikTok as a company that needs to be studied, noting also that 1.6 million young Australians use the platform.
She said, “Some of these approaches to moderating content might be inconsistent with Australian values. (…) For example, removing material about Tiananmen Square, or deprioritizing material about Hong Kong protests,” according to Reuters.
As is well known, Australia is not the first country to warn about the possible cyberinsecurity generated by the presence of TikTok. In fact India, where TikTok’s largest market was located, banned the application in June. The United States announced last week that it is seriously evaluating the possibility of banning it as well, as reported by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in communication with Fox News.
Meanwhile, Lee Hunter, general manager of TikTok Australia, as quoted by the Australian newspaper TheWest wrote a note to Australian politicians saying that TikTok was “being used as a political football.” He also said the company is independent and not aligned with any government, party, or ideology, adding that TikTok Australia’s data is securely stored in Singapore and the United States.
What is not understood is why, if it is a free and independent company as it claims to be, it suffers constant allegations of censorship, especially with respect to videos that aim to criticize or denounce the Chinese Communist Party.