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Australian government to ban TikTok on Commonwealth-owned devices

The Australian federal government is reported to be in the process of banning the use of Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on Commonwealth-owned devices.

user icon David Hollingworth
Tue, 04 Apr 2023
Australian government bans TikTok on Commonwealth-owned devices
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According to The Australian, Anthony Albanese has signed off on the ban and has been in talks with state and territory governments this week, which will likely follow suit. However, a wider ban on public use of the app is not expected at this stage.

A formal announcement is expected today (4 April), according to sources within the government.

The move comes after a review by the Department of Home Affairs, which it is understood was completed some weeks ago. One reason for the delay between the review being handed down and the final decision was fears of diplomatic repercussions, as Australia is seeking to calm down relations with China.

In the wake of a number of bans from allied countries, such as Canada and New Zealand, NDIS Minister Bill Shorten admitted he had concerns over the app last month.

“The government is reviewing the social media platforms,” Minister Shorten told Today, after admitting he saw the app as a “serious issue”. Shorten’s colleague, Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek, had also said that while she still used the app, she used it on a second, personal device rather than on her official Commonwealth phone.

Lee Hunter, TikTok’s general manager for Australia and New Zealand, has expressed disappointment in the decision.

“If confirmed, we are extremely disappointed by this decision, which, in our view, is driven by politics, not fact,” Hunter said in a widely reported statement.

“We are also disappointed that TikTok, and the millions of Australians who use it, were left to learn of this decision through the media, despite our repeated offers to engage with government constructively about this policy.”

“Again, we stress that there is no evidence to suggest that TikTok is in any way a security risk to Australians and should not be treated differently to other social media platforms,” Hunter said.

“Our millions of Australian users deserve a government which makes decisions based upon facts and who treats all businesses fairly, regardless of country of origin.”

The states are already starting to respond to news of the ban. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said he will close his account and ditch the platform entirely.

"When it comes to the issues of national security, whenever we can have one policy, we have one framework that operates across our country," he said today.

A NSW government spokesperson has also chimed in: "Cyber Security NSW is continuing discussions with the commonwealth regarding its updated position on Tik Tok and federal government devices."

The bans are based on fears that ByteDance — TikTok’s Chinese parent company — can be influenced by the CCP into sharing user data and providing an avenue for the Chinese government to influence opinion in the West.

Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, appeared before a US Senate committee last month, where he called the app “screams out with national security concerns”.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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