UK Parliament closes TikTok account after MPs raise China concerns

Move comes after Beijing imposed sanctions on a number of British politicians

The British Parliament has said it will no longer use its TikTok social media account over concerns about China's human rights record. AFP
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The UK Parliament's official TikTok account has been closed after MPs raised concerns about the social media platform’s Chinese links.

MPs' use of the popular app, owned by a Chinese parent company, had been an attempt to engage youngsters with the work of Parliament.

But the relationship between Westminster and Beijing has been severely strained since China imposed sanctions on seven MPs and peers.

The objections were led by a group of MPs sanctioned by Beijing for speaking out against alleged human rights abuse.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, one of under sanctions, welcomed the decision.

"We need to start talking to people about not using TikTok," he said.

Nus Ghani, a Conservative MP who was also a target of the Chinese sanctions, thanked the Speaker of the House of Commons for "standing up for our values" after the move.

A UK Parliament spokesman said: “Based on Member feedback, we are closing the pilot UK Parliament TikTok account earlier than we had planned.

“The account was a pilot initiative while we tested the platform as a way of reaching younger audiences with relevant content about Parliament.”

The account has been locked and its content has been deleted.

Followers of the account are met with an updated bio that reads: “This account is now closed. Find us at www.parliament.uk.”

TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is based in China and MPs have raised concerns about user data being sent to Beijing.

In a letter to the Speakers of the Commons and Lords, seen by the Politico website, a group of MPs under sanctions imposed by the Beijing government for speaking out about human rights abuse complained about the TikTok account.

“The prospect of Xi Jinping’s government having access to personal data on our children’s phones ought to be a cause for major concern,” the letter said.

Theo Bertram, the app’s vice president for government relations and public policy in Europe, last month told MPs: “We have never been asked to provide TikTok user data to the Chinese government, nor would we if asked.”

TikTok does not operate in China and the app’s data is stored in the US and Singapore.

The firm has offered to meet any MP who wants to know more about the way users’ data is handled.

Mr Duncan Smith told the PA news agency: “We are pleased that Parliament, immediately they were told, understood there was a problem and shut it down.

“It’s important for others to look at that now and we need to start talking to people about not using TikTok.”

A TikTok spokeswoman said: “While it is disappointing that Parliament will no longer be able to connect with the millions of people who use TikTok in the UK, we reiterate the offer to reassure those Members of Parliament who raised concerns and clarify any inaccuracies about our platform.”

Updated: August 03, 2022, 4:58 PM
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