Australia will ban the use of TikTok on federal government devices over security concerns, joining a list of countries restricting the video-sharing app that includes the United States, France and the United Kingdom.
The ban follows warnings by Western officials that China could use the app, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, to spy on users and manipulate public debate.
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Australia’s Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said on Tuesday the ban would come into effect “as soon as practicable” while exemptions would be allowed on a case-by-case basis subject to security precautions.
The ban makes Australia the last of the “Five Eyes” intelligence partners to introduce such restrictions, following the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand.
The announcement comes amid heightened concerns in Australia about alleged espionage and interference by Beijing, which led Canberra to pass sweeping anti-foreign interference legislation and slap restrictions on Chinese firms, including Huawei.
TikTok has denied claims that the app represents a security risk and insisted it has never and would never share data with the Chinese government.
The US Congress is currently considering legislation that would force ByteDance to sell TikTok, which claims 150 million US users, or see the app banned outright.
Critics have argued the proposed ban may be incompatible with the free speech rights guaranteed by the US constitution and claimed such a move would be hypocritical given US tech companies’ poor record on privacy and the US government’s own track record of spying.
China has said it would “firmly oppose” a forced sale of TikTok and basing such a move on “foreign ownership, rather than its products and services” would damage investor confidence in the US.