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TikTok accuses Australian MPs of using app as ‘political football’ amid calls for it to be shut down

TikTok Australia has beefed up its campaign to stay open in Australia after federal MPs called for the app to be banned and claimed it was feeding user data to China.

The popular video app, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, features an unending loop of 15-second videos and is used by more than 1.6 million Australians – most of whom are under 25.

While the social media giant only launched its Australian headquarters last month, members of parliament have been calling for the app to be banned due to concerns Chinese government could access user data. 

TikTok Australia has beefed up its campaign to uphold its reputation after federal MPs called for the app to be banned and claimed it was feeding user data to China

Since then TikTok has launched a campaign in a bid to protect its reputation and insists it has never shared user data with Beijing.  

‘Don’t make TikTok a political football,’ the company wrote in full page advertisements published in major Australian newspapers on Wednesday.

The advert says the popular video platform is one of Australia’s most loved apps and that it’s fun, safe and independent.

‘Australia’s data has always been secure with us. We’re focused on your safety every day,’ the ad reads.  

The campaign comes days after the company’s Australian general manager Lee Hunter sent a letter to federal MPs in a bid to alleviate concerns about the app’s connection to China.

‘Contrary to some claims, we are not aligned with any Government, political party or ideology. We are a privately owned company, and TikTok is focused on enabling people to make and share creative and fun videos,’ the letter read.

The campaign comes days after the company's Australian general manager Lee Hunter (pictured) sent a letter to federal MPs in a bid to alleviate concerns about the app's connection to China

The campaign comes days after the company’s Australian general manager Lee Hunter (pictured) sent a letter to federal MPs in a bid to alleviate concerns about the app’s connection to China

Tik Tok is one of the most popular apps in the world and had 315 million downloads in the first quarter of the year

Tik Tok is one of the most popular apps in the world and had 315 million downloads in the first quarter of the year

‘We strive to be a platform that is both safe and fun to use, and we prioritise protecting the security of our users’ data.’ 

The letter says Australian user data is stored in Singapore and the US, and that such information has never been given to the Chinese government.

HOW DOES IT WORK? 

  • Users post videos of themselves and broadcast them on the app
  • Anyone can find these videos and post comments on them
  • It also allows you to message that person privately
  • Some of the most popular videos are watched more than 10 million times
  • Each TikTok video is generally 15 to 60 seconds long
  • The videos are typically set to music, often showing the user dancing, doing a trick, or lip-syncing

‘Nor would we do so if asked,’ Mr Hunter wrote.

‘The truth is, with tensions rising between some countries, TikTok has unfortunately been caught in the middle, and is being used by some as a political football.

‘I assure you – we’re a social media platform for sharing videos – that’s all.’

TikTok is currently expanding in Australia and is advertising for dozens of jobs.

An anonymous federal MP told the Herald Sun earlier this month the app should be banned in Australia, insisting the Chinese government had a hold of it.

In response, Mr Hunter said the news report was ‘based on an unnamed source, supported by an organisation which has disclosed the receipt of foreign funding to publish its reports’.

‘Our Cyber Defense, Security Assurance, and Data Protection programs will be front and centre in our new Transparency Centre that we recently announced,’ he said.  

TikTok is expected to front a parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference through social media.

Asked about the company earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said people needed to be conscious of where their data was going.

‘I think it’s right for people to have an increased awareness of where these platforms originate and the risk they present,’ he said. 

TikTok is the international version of Chinese app Douyin where users create and upload short videos and Gifs with a host of functions.

The popular video app, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, features an unending loop of 15-second videos and is used by more than 1.6 million Australians (Chinese flag pictured)

The popular video app, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, features an unending loop of 15-second videos and is used by more than 1.6 million Australians (Chinese flag pictured)

The app asks users for access to their phone’s camera, microphone contact list and location when they sign up. 

Users of the app, which is now more popular than Snapchat, only have to be 13 years old to sign up – and can be contacted by anyone unless they make their profile private.

Even then, anyone can request to look at their pictures and videos, and even pretend to be another child. 

Tensions between the nations have been simmering since the Australian government announced a probe into the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus in April.

TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions

Pictured: A video shared by soldiers

TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions. Pictured: A video shared by soldiers

In response, Chinese state media and leaders warned of trade retribution that could wipe $135billion from the Australian economy.

On May 18, China slapped a crippling 80 per cent tariff on barely exports from Australian farmers.  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia will spend $75billion on the navy, $65billion on the air force, $55billion on the army, $15billion on cyber security.

China’s state-owned media responded saying the communist nation won’t back down to the ‘provocations’ and could counter by upgrading its forces.  

WHAT IS TIK TOK? 

TikTok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions.

TikTok’s tagline is ‘Make every second count’.

It was the most downloaded app in the US in 2018 and the world’s fourth most downloaded app in 2018, ahead of Instagram and Snapchat.

TikTok is known in China as Douyin where it was launched in 2016 and then made more widely available around the world in 2017.

Douyin is still the version of the app used in China, available to download separately to TikTok.

Last year, the app was merged with popular music video lip-syncing app Musical.ly, also with headquarters in China.

Most children use the app to film themselves lip-syncing to chart hits.

It offers users a raft if colourful modification and editing tools including overlaying music, sound, animated stickers, filters and augmented reality (AR) for creating short videos.

The Beijing based social network has more than 500 million active users and the company is now worth more than $75 billion (£58 billion). 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk