Australian TikTok users are begging the Australian Government not to ban the immensely popular social media app, after an outspoken federal MP urged folks to banish it from their phones.
Some concerned users have hammered Prime Minister Scott Morrison‘s Twitter account with pleas not to sever their access. Others have directly questioned TikTok Australia’s official Instagram account about the issue.
A Change.org petition demanding TikTok remain available in Australia has even racked up 2,000 signatures in a matter of days.
Here’s what you need to know about the situation, and what it means for your access to the #fyp.
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Is it banned?
TikTok is still available to use in Australia, and you can download it from the App Store or Google Play.
Ah. What’s all this about then?
Mounting fears that Australia will ban TikTok likely kicked off on Friday, when Nationals MP George Christensen re-shared an article which featured accusations the app is spyware for the Chinese government.
“If you or your kids have the Tik Tok app on your phone get rid of it now,” Christensen wrote on Facebook.
Morrison himself has even wandered into the discussion, this week telling 2GB that it’s “right for people to have an increased awareness of where these platforms originate and the risk they present.”
But all of that speculation really kicked off Monday, when The Herald Sun reported that a Senate committee has asked TikTok’s Australian representatives to answer some hefty questions about the app.
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Why are there concerns, anyway?
There’s quite a bit going on here.
Primarily, critics claim that TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is inextricably linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
Speaking to the Herald Sun, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Fergus Ryan said it’s likely that user information, including the data of some 1.6 million Australian users, could be accessed by the Chinese government.
Those concerns have been heard by some senior politicians, who are wary of other countries potentially having access to the cameras, microphones, contact lists, and GPS data of everyday Australians.
“It may not be what it seems to be,” Senator Jim Molan told The Guardian. “I think people should understand and be informed about what this form of social networking does involve.”
Senator Molan serves as the deputy chair of the Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media, a parliamentary group formed last year to suss if other nations are meddling with Australia through digital platforms.
Senator Jenny McAllister, who chairs the committee, told The Guardian “we have to take those concerns seriously.”
She has called on TikTok’s Australian representatives to face the Senate inquiry to talk things out.
And what does TikTok say?
TikTok’s Australian general manager Lee Hunter shot down those claims, telling multiple outlets that “TikTok does not share information of our users in Australia with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government, and would not do so if asked.”
He added that the company will “always welcome the opportunity” to meet with politicians, but stopped short of confirming TikTok’s involvement with the senate inquiry.
A TikTok spokesperson told Australian media publication B&T that work is underway to limit how employees outside Australia can access local user data, which they claim is stored in Singapore.
“Our goal is to minimise data access across regions so that, for example, employees in other parts of the APAC region, including China, would have very minimal access to user data,” they said.
What comes next?
Tensions between Australia and China are pretty high at the minute, so you can expect this issue to hang around for a while.
Until then, Aussie users are free to use TikTok how they wish, whether that’s to catch up on teen drama, hear from Melburnians under strict lockdowns, or simply watch how a McDonald’s hack can go catastrophically wrong.