The UK Parliament has closed down its TikTok account after MPs raised concerns over allegations the company passes data to the Chinese government.
A number of members wrote to the speakers in both the Commons and Lords last week calling for the social media account to be ditched, saying they were “surprised and disappointed” it had been launched after “recent reports have made clear that… TikTok data is routinely transferred to China”.
But TikTok insisted to Sky News it does not operate in China, has never provided user data to the Chinese government, and its user data is stored in the US and Singapore – moving to Ireland in 2023 when its new data centre opens.
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The lead author of the letter, Tory MP Nus Ghani, tweeted the correspondence, which said that despite being questioned by the business select committee, TikTok executives “were unable to reassure MPs that the company could prevent data transfer” to its parent company, China-based ByteDance.
She said if the firm requested and received it, “Bytedance would be legally obliged to hand over UK data to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] if requested”.
The letter, also signed by former leadership contender Tom Tugendhat and ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, among others, added: “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.”
In their response, Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Lord McFall said the account was “an attempt to engage with younger audiences – who are not always active on our existing social media platforms – regarding the work of parliament”.
But they added they were “not consulted on the plans for this pilot project”.
They said, after conversations with officials and in light of the letter, “we have decided that the account should be closed with immediate effect”.
Sir Iain told Sky News he was “over the moon” at the decision, adding: “It should never have been opened in the first place, but it is good they have come to their senses.”
Ms Ghani also thanked the speakers on Twitter for “standing up for our values and protecting our data”, adding: “Common sense prevails.”
TikTok said it written to the MPs who signed the letter, offering to “meet with them to understand their concerns and explain our data protection processes”.
The social media platform also pointed to the fact many departments and politicians use TikTok, including Number 10 and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.
A spokesperson for TikTok 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.”