On the basis of security, British government ministers are not permitted to use the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on their official phones or gadgets.
The administration is concerned that the Chinese government may gain access to private information stored on official phones.
Oliver Dowden, a cabinet minister, said the ban was a “precautionary” measure but would go into action right away.
Allegations that TikTok provides user data to the Chinese government have been categorically refuted.
According to Theo Bertram, the app’s vice-president for government relations and public affairs in Europe, the decision was “more on geopolitics than anything else,” he told the BBC.
He said, “We requested to be assessed on the facts, not on the fears that people have.
The Chinese embassy in London claimed the action was motivated by politics “rather than facts” and would “undermine the confidence of the world community in the UK’s economic environment”.
The public should always “examine each social media platform’s data policy before downloading and utilizing them,” Mr. Dowden said, adding that he would not advise against using TikTok.
Senior lawmakers had pressed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to ban the video-sharing software from official government devices, much like the US and the EU had done.
Yet, government agencies, as well as specific ministers, have embraced TikTok as a means of reaching young people with their messages.
With 3.5 billion downloads worldwide, usage of the app has skyrocketed in recent years.
Its success stems from how simple it is to shoot quick videos with music and entertaining filters, as well as from its algorithm, which is adept at serving up content that users will find interesting.
It is able to do this because it collects a lot of user data, including their age, location, device, and even their typing patterns, and its cookies monitor their online behavior.
US-based social media platforms also do this, but ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok in China, has come under fire for allegedly being controlled by Beijing.
Downing Street announced that it would keep using TikTok to spread the government’s message after posting a TikTok video featuring Larry the Cat forecasting football results. It said that there were some instances where the ban was not applicable.
Despite the security warnings, some politicians are still hesitant to give up their TikTok habit.
Government minister Grant Shapps – an enthusiastic TikTokker – reacted to the ban by sharing a clip from the film, Wolf Of Wall Street, in which Leonardo DiCaprio, playing a New York stockbroker, uses a string of expletives and declares: “The show goes on”.
“I’ve never used TikTok on government devices, and I can hereby confirm I will NOT be quitting TikTok anytime soon,” Mr. Shapps said after calling the ban “reasonable.”
Ministers are only allowed to use the site on devices used for work; personal phones are not prohibited.
However, Nadine Dorries, who dabbled with TikTok videos when serving as culture secretary, announced that she would be removing the app from her own phone and suggested that all MPs do the same.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) posted a video of a Challenger 2 tank to its TikTok account hours before the ban was made public. This tank is one of the types being given to Ukraine.
In order to “advance the activities of the Military Forces and to communicate our support to Ukraine,” the MoD stated it will keep using the app. Sensitive information for the department is “kept on a separate system,” it was said.
Moreover, TikTok has been blocked from ministers’ and government employees’ work phones by the Welsh government.
Upon considering the need for additional action, the Scottish government was in contact with the Cabinet Office, according to a representative for the organization in Edinburgh.
The UK government’s decision, according to a statement from TikTok, was made based on “basic misconceptions,” the social media platform stated.
A spokeswoman added, “We remain dedicated to cooperating with the government to address any issues, but should be judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors.
It was discovered that a few Western journalists had being followed by ByteDance staff. According to ByteDance, they were let go.
A TikTokk user from the US posted a video criticizing how the Chinese government treated Uighur Muslims, and it was later removed. It was a mistake, according to TikTok.
Despite the company’s repeated denials, this has made governments and security experts more anxious.
Every company with a presence in China is expected to be loyal to the government, but it’s unclear how far ByteDance might be compelled to give up data.
TikTok was banned from official devices in the US in December, and the EU did the same last month. Similar measures have been used by Canada, Belgium, and India.
On Friday, a similar restriction on government gadgets was announced in New Zealand.
In response to reports that the White House wants TikTok’s Chinese owners to sell their shares in the company, China has accused the US of spreading misinformation and suppressing the app.
Despite TikTok’s claims to the contrary, Chinese intelligence laws require businesses to assist the Communist Party when requested.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are among the Western social media apps that are blocked in China.