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UK Parliament closes its TikTok account over China surveillance fears

The UK parliament TikTok account has been closed and content deleted merely a week after it was opened. "Based on member feedback, we are closing the pilot UK Parliament TikTok account earlier than we had planned," a UK Parliament spokesman announced.

This was after a section of MPs and peers raised concerns that ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok could be sharing sensitive information with the Chinese government.

The senior MPs and peers, including former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and recent Tory leadership contender Tom Tugendhat, tabled their worries through a letter to the presiding officers of both houses of parliament.

"While efforts made to engage young people in the history and functioning of parliament should always be welcomed, we cannot and should not legitimise the use of an app which has been described by tech experts as 'essentially Chinese government spyware'," the letter read in part.

Beijing and London have not been in the best terms in recent years which might explain the surveillance concerns.

Last year, several MPs including Tom Tugendhat, Iain Duncan Smith, and Nus Ghani who are signatories in the letter were sanctioned by the Chinese government for speaking against the abuse of human rights in the Asian country.

“We can’t have parliament becoming a client of an app which sends data to a government which has sanctioned it. And we certainly can’t allow parliament to become a client of an app whose executives may have misled it,” Ghani said in a statement.

It is reported that TikTok has reached out to all the signatories of the letter in an attempt to clarify any misinformation about their platform but without much success.

In a letter to MP Darren Jones, TikTok's vice president for government relations and public policy in Europe noted that TikTok had never been requested to share TikTok user data with the Chinese government nor would they comply if requested.

However, the MPs are leaning in on a National Intelligence Law passed in 2017 for support. In accordance with the laws, companies are obligated to provide data to government authorities upon request.

The closure of the parliament TikTok account may just be the beginning of a wider crackdown on TikTok by the UK government, a route that’s already been taken by India and the United States.

A few weeks ago, TikTok USA made Oracle Cloud its default storage after reports that certain staff in China could be accessing user data even though under limited circumstances.

This was a contradiction to an earlier statement by Elizabeth Kanter, TikTok’s director of government relations, where she noted that no user data goes to China and that TikTok does not send user data to ByteDance in China.

The Senior MPs and peers have indicated that they will need credible assurances that no data can be shared with the Chinese government before giving the video platform a pass.

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