The UK Parliament’s anxieties about TikTok and China’s risk of espionage

The UK Parliament's anxieties about TikTok and China's risk of espionage

Here's how the story of the UK Parliament's TikTok account went, closed a few days after its opening. Marco Orioles's article

It had to be a gimmick to attract a young and very young audience and make the works of the Chambers captivating in their eyes. But the British Parliament's decision to open a TikTok account caused a storm among MPs and Lords, which ultimately forced the legislative branch to step back.

UK Parliament TikTok profile closed

So yesterday came the news, promptly relaunched by the BBC , that the TikTok @UKParliament profile was closed and its contents deleted just a few days after its launch.

The letter from the parliamentarians

The decision came after several lawmakers wrote a letter to the speakers of both houses asking for the account to be removed until TikTok gave "credible guarantees" that no sensitive data was transferred to the Beijing government.

In the letter, the parliamentarians, some of whom are under Beijing sanctions due to the controversy over the repression of human rights in Xinjiang, said they were "surprised and disappointed" by Parliament's decision to join the social network owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The parliamentarians stressed, among other things, the "considerable" risks to data security.

The same communication also stated that the managers of TikTok "had not been able to reassure the members of Parliament that the company could prevent data transfers" in improper hands.

"The prospect", concluded the letter, "that the government of Xi Jinping may have access to the personal data of our children's phones should be a source of grave concern".

The statement by the Parliament's spokesperson

"Based on the feedback from Members," a Parliament spokesman said yesterday, "we closed the UK Parliament's TikTok account earlier than we planned."

"The account", added the spokesperson, "was a pilot initiative taken while we were experimenting with the platform as a way to reach younger audiences with content related to Parliament".

The attempt of TikTok

According to BBC sources, having learned of the parliamentarians' protest letter, TikTok had written a letter to each of them offering to meet them and explain their data protection policy to them.

Specifically, Theo Bertram, TikTok's Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy in Europe, wrote last month to Congressman Darren Jones, who is the President of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategies Committee.

In the letter, Bertram explained to Jones that "the Chinese government never asked us to provide TikTok user data, nor would we if asked." But Bertram's initiative fell on deaf ears and the news of the account closure generated complacency among anti-Chinese parliamentarians.

The satisfaction of the deputy

One of them, the deputy of the Tories Nusrat Ghani, expressed his satisfaction on Twitter writing that "common sense prevailed".

The TikTok case in the comparison on Tory leadership

While Britain's TikTok has long been in the eye of the storm, the question of its role in the social media landscape had made a big splash last month during the first televised debate between leadership candidates Tory Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

During the confrontation, the chief economic editor of the BBC , Faisal Islam, had asked Truss: "Do you intend to crack down on TikTok as some of your MPs have suggested?". Truss's response was that "we absolutely have to crack down on this type of company."

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Fri, 05 Aug 2022 06:45:48 +0000.