So, Uhhh, An Aussie Senate Wants To Investigate TikTok Over Foreign Interference???

Another day, another country claiming that TikTok is in big leagues with the Chinese government—only this time, it’s… us. According to Gizmodo Australia, an Australian senate committee plans to question TikTok over claims of foreign interference and alleged ties to the Chinese government. Depending on how this plays out, we may be saying RIP to these virtual mans.

ICYMI, the viral and beloved video-sharing app has been met with various claims by several country’s officials that it may be sharing users’ private data with the Chinese government. 

First, in the midst of some v serious political tension between the two countries, India banned a number of China-based apps, including TikTok and, recently, its clone app, TikTok Light. Then, the U.S. Security of State, Mike Pompeo, told Fox News (lmao) that the U.S. government was considering banning the app in the States. And now, some of our own politicians are thinking the same thing. 

According to the above Gizmodo Australia article, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has questioned TikTok’s independence with the Chinese government, and an unnamed federal politician allegedly told the Herald Sun that TikTok was “hovering” up the data of the 1.6 million Aussies who’ve downloaded the app since it launched in May 2019. Some TikTok folks have started a petition to challenge Morrison’s and other politicians’ efforts to ban our Gen Z prime form of entertainment, but it currently only has, well, a measly 2500 signatures. 

@lazzlelaz

Lmao not happy #fyp #foryoupage might have to make my own yt account in the end anyways #australia #tiktokban

♬ SCARY – bigsnips

A majority of these claims come from the fact TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has its headquarters based in Beijing, China. Then, a recent report by cyber experts at ProtonMail on TikTok’s privacy policy claimed that TikTok’s parent company’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party should be something to be at least slightly concerned about, and that the app collected a decent chunk of your user data. 

Namely, it collects your IP address, browsing history, your mobile phone carrier, email address tied to the account, your location data as well as any comments or messages you’ve made on the app and whatever you’ve recently copied onto your phone clipboard. Yikes

And, while a spokesperson for the app swiftly defused the claims tied to its parent company, admitting that TikTok’s offices are based in Singapore, it’s worth noting that it and other non-Chinese apps like Facebook collect your private data and sell it to third party folks like All. The. Time.

“TikTok does not share information of our users in Australia with any foreign government, including the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked,” TikTok Australia’s manager, Lee Hunter, said in a media statement. “[The Herald Sun’s] news report is based on an unnamed source, supported by an organisation which has disclosed the receipt of foreign funding to publish its reports.”

Anywayyy, so, because of all that, a literal representative for TikTok—the app we all know and love that’s given us celebrity impersonations, teen activism, beauty hacks and viral dances—is going to a hearing at the senate on the 21st of August. A second hearing, which aims to uncover the impact social media had on the 2019 federal election, plans to speak to representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google in September with a final report released in… March 2022. 

“TikTok is committed to transparent dialogue with our community, including policy makers and we will work with the Committee as we engage with this process,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia in an email. “TikTok welcomes ongoing discussions with government audiences as we work to remain a safe, fun and creative platform for people to express themselves.”

Julian Rizzo-Smith is a writer and producer. He also claims to be a vine historian, avid connoisseur of low-fi beats, indie hip hop and Kermit memes. In a perfect world, he’d be married to Tyler the Creator, own an Arcanine and a Lapras, and don his own Sailor Scouts uniform. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster, which is also, coincidentally, how one might describe him.