Libs echo US demand TikTok sever ties with China owners

TikTok is facing a ban in the United States if it doesn't divest its US assets.

TikTok is facing a ban in the United States if it doesn't divest its US assets. Photo: AAP

The federal opposition wants Australia to emulate the United States in its bid to force the Chinese tech giant that owns TikTok to divest its US business.

Shadow home affairs spokesman James Paterson says the plan isn’t to stop the use of the social media platform in Australia but to “make TikTok safe by removing the influence of the Chinese Communist Party”.

Senator Paterson said Australia should be treating Chinese instant messaging app WeChat in the same manner

“The end that I hope for is that Australians can continue to use TikTok but just without the risk that their data is abused, and without the rest of the Chinese Communist Party can put its thumb on the algorithm to pump disinformation into our democracy,” he told ABC TV on Sunday.

Despite his security concerns, Senator Paterson defended the Liberal Party’s right to have an official account on the social media platform and said it was okay for political parties to use it as long as they were “mitigating risks”.

The short-form video app is owned by Chinese company ByteDance and is one of the fastest growing platforms in the world, with more than 170 million users in the US and 8.5 million Australian users.

Six months to divest

But last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would give ByteDance six months to divest from the app and sell to a company that is not based in China.

A failure to divest in time would effectively result in a ban on the app across the US.

US politicians say the app poses a security risk as Americans’ data could be shared with the Chinese government due to ByteDance’s connections with the country.

But TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew says US data is held in Singapore, not China.

TikTok is banned on Australian government devices at the moment but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he has no plans to follow the US down the forced divestment path.

Senator Paterson said he had been “extensively briefed” by the Australia intelligence community “on the danger of TikTok” but it “wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go into detail”.

“It is a risk to our democracy, it’s a risk to our national security and the government should take action here to protect Australians from this very serious threat.”


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