UK parliament blocks TikTok on its devices

The UK parliament in Westminster has announced it will block TikTok on all official devices and its wider network, amid fears over cybersecurity.

Britain last week banned the Chinese-owned video app on government phones, and parliament is now following suit – just as TikTok’s chief executive Shou Chew is facing aggressive questions on security at the US Congress.

"Following the government's decision to ban TikTok from government devices, the commissions of both the House of Commons and Lords have decided that TikTok will be blocked from all parliamentary devices and the wider parliamentary network," a parliament spokesperson said.

"Cybersecurity is a top priority for parliament. However, we do not comment on specific details of our cyber or physical security controls, policies or incidents,” the spokesperson added, according to Reuters.

The Scottish government has also banned TikTok from its mobile phones and other corporate devices. This decision followed discussions with London. Under devolution, Scotland has its own governing body responsible for domestic legislation, with foreign policy affecting the UK as a whole being decided at Westminster in the capital.

The US, Canada, Belgium and the European Commission have already banned the app from official devices.

In most cases, the ban is directed at work devices and does not extend to personal ones used by staff or the public. However, some lawmakers in the US would like the app to be banned altogether for being a potential national security threat.

TikTok has come under increasing scrutiny due to fears that user data from the app, owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance, could end up in the hands of the Chinese government, undermining Western security interests.

Chew already faced tough questions on Thursday from members of the US Congress, most of whom have been unmoved by the company’s claims that it supports free speech and is independent of China’s government.

The app, which has more than 150 million users in the US, has faced accusations that user data from that country would be shared with the Chinese government, and that it fails to adequately protect children from harm.

TikTok last week said President Joe Biden's administration demanded its Chinese owners divest themselves of their stakes or face a potential ban. Beijing has already said it would oppose any such move.

A report submitted to the Australian Senate recently said ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, should be called a “hybrid” – in other words, partially state-controlled – entity because it cannot be considered to be private and independent.

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