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UK parliament axes TikTok account after MP outcry over China links

LONDON — The British parliament has shut down its TikTok account after MPs sanctioned by China raised concerns about data security. 

Parliamentary authorities confirmed they had deactivated the social media profile just six days after opening it, following an outcry by MPs worried about the relationship between TikTok and its Chinese owner ByteDance.

Senior Tory politicians including Tom Tugendhat, Iain Duncan Smith and Nus Ghani — all subject to sanctions by Beijing — had called for the account to be taken down in a letter to the speakers of the Commons and Lords revealed by POLITICO.

A spokesperson for the U.K. parliament said: “Based on member feedback, we are closing the pilot U.K. 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.”

In their letter taking aim at the account, the group of politicians had said they were “surprised and disappointed” with the decision to set it up. They pointed out that China’s National Intelligence law requires companies to yield data to government authorities upon request, and expressed doubt over a TikTok executive’s reassurances to parliament in 2021 that its user data is not shared with ByteDance in China.

Responding to those concerns, TikTok said it has “never” provided user data to the Chinese government, and argued that the letter to both speakers contained “factual inaccuracies” about the social media company’s operations.

But the move to shutter the account has been welcomed by Ghani, a member of the Inter Parliamentary-Alliance on China (IPAC), an international group of lawmakers calling for a shift in the way democracies engage with Beijing.

“This may seem like a small step, but it’s extraordinary for Parliament to shut down its TikTok account with immediate effect,” she said. Ghani thanked the two speakers for “showing serious spine in defending our values, protecting our security and sharing our concerns about TikTok,” and heaped praise on IPAC colleagues for shining a spotlight on China’s treatment of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. She promised fresh scrutiny of TikTok through the House of Commons business select committee.

In their own letter to Ghani, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle and Lords Speaker John McFall both said they had not been consulted before the TikTok account was created.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster contributed reporting.

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