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‘Perverse and dangerous’: Australian government ‘must take action’ on TikTok ban says opposition

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Sarah Blake
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday said his government had no plans to block TikTok.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday said his government had no plans to block TikTok. Credit: AAP

The Federal Opposition has slammed as “perverse and dangerous” the Albanese Government’s lack of action on protecting Australians users of TikTok as the United States moves to ban the app.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday said his government had no plans to block TikTok despite similar national security concerns here to those in the US.

TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance and with 8.5 million users here has been downloaded by one-in-three Australians. In the US there are 170m users and since its inception in 2016 it has been the fastest growing social media platform in the world.

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Wildy popular with young audiences in particular, there are also widespread concerns user data is shared with the Chinese Government. TikTok denies this is.

The US House of Representatives today passed a landmark bill that could see TikTok banned in America. It gives ByteDance six months to sell its controlling stake to a company outside China or it would be removed from the Google Play store and Apple’s App store, making it unavailable in the US.

Mr Albanese on Thursday said he was reluctant to ban the app, partly because of its popularity.

“We’ll take advice but we have no plans,” Mr Albanese told WSFM in Sydney.

“You’ve always got to have national security concerns, front and centre, but you also need to acknowledge that for a whole lot of people, this provides a way of them communicating.”

He later told ABC Sydney that its appeal for young users meant the app should continue in Australia.

“I recognise that for a whole lot of, particularly younger people out there, TikTok is their preferred app, essentially, that they communicate on. And the idea of - I’m not a big fan of big brother government, is my starting point,” Mr Albanese said.

Opposition home and affairs and cyber security spokesperson James Paterson said it was “perverse and dangerous” the Government wasn’t moving to protect local users.

“The Albanese Government must act, and quickly, in concert with our American allies. We can’t afford to be left behind if they legislate a solution to this very serious national security problem,” Senator Paterson told The Nightly.

“TikTok is a national security threat for Australia for the same reason it’s a national security threat to the US.

“If America acts and we don’t then our users will continue to be exposed to the data privacy and foreign interference risks posed by the Chinese government operated app.

Shadow Minister for Home Affairs James Paterson
Opposition home and affairs and cyber security spokesperson said it was ‘perverse and dangerous’. Credit: AAP

“We don’t need any more weakness, prevarication or delay from the Albanese government. Now is the time to act.

“The fact that is popular is exactly why we need to do something about it and imagine the message it would send that we won’t deal with national security risks as long as they come by popular apps.

“That is completely perverse and dangerous.

“The solution that the US Congress has proposed allows people to continue to use the app, just without the influence of the communist party.”

Opposition leader Peter Dutton said Mr Albanese was being “weak”.

“At a time when we’re being advised that young people who are using TikTok are having their personal details collected ... when that’s being collected either by a country or by a third party, the Prime Minister has to act,” Mr Dutton said.

“So far, the Prime Minister hasn’t done that and I think the Prime Minster, particularly at a time like this, doesn’t need to be weak, he needs to be strong. It’s up to the Prime Minister of our country to respond in the appropriate way – that’s what I would expect him to do.”

Peter Dutton
Opposition leader Peter Dutton said Mr Albanese was being ‘weak’. Credit: AAP

ByteDance has consistently denied that its user data is shared with its Chinese parent company. However there have been several reported instances of this occurring, including a Wall St Journal report in January that said TikTok managers “instruct workers to share data with colleagues in other parts of the company and with ByteDance workers without going through official channels. That data sometimes includes private information such as a user’s email, birth date and IP address”.

While the move of the law in the US is significant, House passage of the bill is only the first step ahead a review in the Senate. US President Joe Biden has said he will support it if it passes.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has flipflopped on whether the app should be banned and said this week that “there are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it”.

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