Australia authorities track moves to ban TikTok in the US

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 14 May 2024
Photo by visuals on Unsplash.

Australian authorities are tracking moves to ban social media app TikTok in the US.

Any local position would be "considered, deliberate and in the best interests of the Australian public, our values and national security," a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs told AdNews.

The US government has told ByteDance, the China-based owner of TikTok, to sell the social media app to a company based outside China. If it doesn't, the US will ban the app from appearing on Apple and Google’s app stores and stop internet service providers from accessing it.

TikTok is suing the federal government in the US under the grounds that such a move violates users’ First Amendment (free speech) rights.

The main contention from lawmakers revolves around not just how ByteDance uses the data collected from its users, but "laws that allow the Chinese government to secretly demand data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence-gathering operations", according to an article in The New York Times.

TikTok Australia's GM for global business solutions, Brett Armstrong, said there is zero evidence that TikTok is in any way a national security risk.

 "We welcome the Prime Minister's (Albanese) recent comments that his government has no plans to ban us," he said.

In Australia, TikTok is used by more than 8.5 million people and 350,000 businesses. A study by Oxford Economics found that Australian business activity on TikTok ultimately contributed $1.1 billion to total GDP and supported 13,000 jobs.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said concerns about the security of Australians' data on social media is well-known and not limited to TikTok.

"On 4 April 2023, the government announced that TikTok will no longer be permitted on government-issued devices. This measure was in direct response to advice provided by security and intelligence agencies," a department spokesperson told AdNews.

"This decision by the Government was the first of several steps to build resilience against the threats that social media applications pose to the security of Australians’ data."

The Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said that additional measures to mitigate identified security risks have been brought forward through the 2023-2030 Australian Cyber Security Strategy. 

"This includes the development of a framework to address vendor-based national security risks, and a review into the data broker ecosystem to assess risks associated with data transfer to malicious actors," the spokesperson said. 

"While these measures are under development the Department of Home Affairs is continuing to assess Australia’s security policy settings to ensure they remain fit for purpose against known and emerging threats."

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