New British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps urged to ditch TikTok

TikTok is banned from government-issue mobile phones but ministers can still use the app on personal phones

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps is a regular user of TikTok. Getty Images
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New British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has been urged to quit the TikTok social media site over security fears linked to the Chinese-owned company.

Backbench Conservative MPs have told Mr Shapps that he must avoid the platform, as a leadership example and to show support for the UK's military.

Mr Shapps has indicated he will carry on using the site on his personal phone but not work ones.

TikTok, owned by ByteDance, has been banned from government-issue phones because of its data-collecting abilities. There have also been suspicions, although not confirmed, that the site could be vulnerable to interference from the Chinese government.

Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “I recommend now that he revisits his decision and that he recognises that they pose a threat – otherwise they wouldn’t have been banned from government phones. So in his situation, he should come off it, frankly.”

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence select committee, said Mr Shapps would be receiving an in-depth briefing on his mobile use.

“It is a concern about not just China, but other nations taking advantage,” he said.

“It shows where the character of conflict is going and the way that you can actually accumulate intelligence through things like TikTok.”

Former armed service minister Mark Francois, added to the calls on Friday.

“If Grant Shapps, who has no military experience, wants to persuade likely sceptical armed forces personnel that he takes the defence of the realm seriously, a front foot start would be to publicly disavow any further use of TikTok, at least while he remains in that post,” he said.

Mr Shapps, with, 15,000 followers, generally posts work-related videos including a recent trip to Ukraine. He has posted more than 200 videos.

When TikTok was banned from government phones in March, Mr Shapps said he would carry on using it on his personal device.

A source close to Mr Shapps told the Telegraph: “Along with the Ministry of Defence, which maintains a long-standing official TikTok account, Grant knows that TikTok can be a valuable tool for communicating with his constituents.

“Aware of security concerns, he doesn’t have the app on his phone and the account is instead managed by his constituency staff.”

Mr Shapps became defence secretary on Thursday.

Updated: September 01, 2023, 6:00 PM