British Parliament shuts TikTok account after MPs raise China fears


The Palace of Westminster, the official name of Britain’s Houses of Parliament, home to the House of Lords and the House of Commons, are pictured from across the River Thames in central London. The UK Parliament’s TikTok account has been closed after MPs raised concerns about the social media firm’s Chinese links. — AFP

LONDON: In Britain, Parliament’s TikTok account has been closed after MPs raised concerns about the social media firm’s Chinese links.

Use of the popular app, owned by a Chinese parent firm, had been an attempt to engage youngsters with the work of Parliament.

ALSO READ: Chinese government asked TikTok for stealth propaganda account

But the relationship between Westminster and Beijing has been severely strained after seven MPs and peers were sanctioned by the Chinese state.

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 firm 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 who have been sanctioned by the Beijing government for speaking out about human rights abuses 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, told MPs in July “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. Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith welcomed the decision to close the TikTok account, which followed pressure from the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.

He 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.”

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