UK parliament deletes TikTok account over China security fears - days after it was set up

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
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Parliament has deleted its TikTok account a week after opening it. (Getty Images/TikTok)

The UK Parliament has deleted its official TikTok account just a week after it was set up amid security fears linked to China.

In an embarrassing U-turn, the speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said the account had been closed "with immediate affect" in a letter on Wednesday.

Concerns had been raised on 28 July by a number of MPs the day after it was set up over "considerable data security risks".

They warned the app was considered by many to be Chinese state-sanctioned spyware.

Read more: China wanted a secret TikTok account to spread propaganda in the West, report says

Hoyle said: "This 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.

"However, in light of your feedback and concerns expressed to us we have decided the account should be closed with immediate effect."

TikTok, a Chinese-owned company, is an immensely popular social media platform – particularly among those under 25; the company surpassed one billion users last year.

On Friday, six MPs sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) said they were "surprised and disappointed" the account had been set up.

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The account 'ukparliament' set its privacy settings to private on Wednesday. (TikTok)

The MPs warned there were "data security risks", and that parliament "should not legitimise the use of an app which has been described by tech experts as 'essentially Chinese government spyware'."

"The issue led to the United States government to restrict use of the app in 2020," they said.

"Only last month, US senators requested a further security review, in light of additional security vulnerabilities."

Read more: Truss says UK should crack down on Chinese firms like TikTok

The MPs said legislation in China forces companies based there to "yield data" to the government, and said companies are not permitted to reveal if requests have been made.

"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," they said.

The letter was signed by: Nusrat Ghani MP, Sir Ian Duncan Smith MP, Tim Loughton MP, Tom Tugendhat MP, Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC.

A young girl uses the TikTok app on a smartphone. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 12, 2019. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
TikTok surpassed one billion users in 2021. (PA)

As of Wednesday afternoon, the UK parliament account was still live - albeit with the privacy settings changed to private.

Despite this, many MPs have live TikTok accounts - including transport secretary Grant Shapps and culture secretary Nadine Dorries.

Number 10 also has a TikTok account.

When approached by Yahoo News UK, a spokesperson: “While it is important to reach people through a wide range of channels, we would never jeopardise our security and take all our arrangements extremely seriously.”

It comes as an increasing number of UK MPs are sanctioned by the CCP for speaking out against human rights abuses to Uyghur Muslims in China.

A growing number of countries are referring to the situation as a "genocide" as defined by international convention - including the UK and the US.

However, the Chinese government has said accusations of genocide and human rights abuses come from those "maliciously spreading lies and disinformation".

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