The US state of Montana is doing things right and banning the Tiktok video platform. Other countries have had a ban for some time – not just out of concern for espionage from China.
Tiktok is one of the most popular social networks worldwide: it is said that more than a billion users are active on the platform with the short video clips.
In many states, however, the app is considered a security risk. In particular, the parent company Bytedance, which is partly in Chinese hands, is suspected of giving the Chinese leadership access to user data. The Beijing government denies urging Bytedance to hand over personal data collected abroad.
Nevertheless, some states are now restricting the platform.
The USA have been watching Tiktok critically for a long time. President Joe Biden’s administration banned its employees from using the app on service devices. More than half of U.S. states, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. military do the same for their employees. It is currently being examined whether the platform can be banned throughout the United States. In March, Tiktok boss Shou Zi Chew had to answer questions from MPs in the US Congress.
Montana is the first US state to go one step further: From 2024, Tiktok will no longer be available for download there. The ban protects Montana citizens “from Chinese Communist Party surveillance,” Governor Greg Gianforte said. However, users should not be penalized if they continue to use the app.
Tiktok users have already filed a lawsuit because they see their right to freedom of expression at risk.
Canada is the second American country to join a string of Western countries to ban Tiktok on official government service devices. The video app has far-reaching access to the content of a phone, the reason given at the end of February. So far, according to official information, there is no evidence that confidential information of the Canadian government was spied on.
Three of the most important institutions of the European Union , the EU Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament banned Tiktok from their employees’ devices at the end of February 2023 – out of concern that China could gain access to data. In the case of parliament, for example, the ban also applies to private devices connected to parliamentary e-mail accounts or service networks.
After these announcements, numerous EU countries followed with similar rules, according to which government employees are no longer allowed to use the app on service devices. This includes Belgium , Estonia, Latvia, the Netherlands .
In Germany There is no general ban on Tiktok on government cell phones – however, the app is neither pre-installed on government devices nor can it be downloaded.
In Austria The new rule applies to company mobile phones for all employees in the public sector.
In France In addition to Tiktok, other apps will also be blocked, such as the social networks Twitter, Instagram, the streaming service Netflix and the game “Candy Crush”. A lack of security and data protection concerns are given as reasons. In order to “ensure the cyber security of our administrations and public servants”, the government decided on the ban, the Minister for Public Service, Stanislas Guerini, justified the decision – via Twitter.
According to the French news agency AFP, the ban affects around 2.5 million civil servants.
Ireland at least makes a recommendation for state employees not to use Tiktok on service devices.
In Denmark For security reasons, the Ministry of Defense bans employees from using the platform. Also Sweden Military prohibits use for the same reasons. “The use of mobile phones and tablets can in itself pose a security risk, so we don’t want Tiktok on our work devices,” Guna Graufeldt, spokeswoman for the Swedish Armed Forces, told AFP.
Also Norway – not a member of the EU – worried about possible espionage. Neither Tiktok nor the messenger Telegram should be used on work devices with access to the government systems.
Even the non-EU country Great Britain moves along and bans Tiktok on government phones. “The security of sensitive government data must come first,” said Cabinet Secretary Oliver Dowden in mid-March. The state isn’t the only one concerned about security. The British public broadcaster, the BBC, also has concerns. A note to staff said: “If you don’t need Tiktok for business reasons, you should delete Tiktok.” However, the BBC itself operates some channels on the platform.
Also in New Zealand Tiktok was partly banned in March: on all devices that have access to Parliament’s network. Australia followed shortly thereafter with a ban on government service equipment. Because Tiktok collects extensive user data, it poses “significant risks to security and privacy,” according to the Australian Attorney General’s office.
In Afghanistan Tiktok has been completely banned since 2022. The Taliban, who seized power again in 2021 after the withdrawal of Western forces, justified the decision by saying that the platform misleads young people.
Also in India the app has been banned across the country since 2022 – amid concerns they posed a threat to India’s sovereignty and security. This ban followed shortly after 20 Indian soldiers died in clashes between Indian and Chinese troops on the disputed border in the Himalayas.
The ban led to a boom among Indian providers: software companies started with Tiktok-like video platforms like Moj and Josh – and very successfully.
In Jordan Tiktok has been banned since December 2022 after a police officer died and more than 40 security guards were injured during protests over soaring fuel prices. A government spokesman accused the platform of publishing a large number of videos “calling for murder and chaos”. Tiktok and the government are reportedly still in talks.
Taiwan banned other Chinese social networks besides Tiktok on smartphones, tablets and computers of government employees in late 2022. As the “Taipei Times” reports, the Ministry of Education tried to educate the population with a campaign that the government in China could use the platform to spread disinformation, including about Taiwan. From the perspective of the leadership in Beijing, Taiwan has been a breakaway province since 1949.
Author: Uta Steinwehr