The Australian government is now following the United States, the U.K., Canada, Norway, France, Belgium, the European Parliament and NATO in banning Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from government or organization-issued electronic devices.
On Tuesday, Australian Attorney General Mark Dreyfus announced the government staff ban, enacted because of the “extensive collection of user data and exposure to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law” –– reasons that align with the Biden administration’s push for a nationwide TikTok ban in the U.S.
The General Manager of Operations for TikTok in Australia and New Zealand, Lee Hunter, said the company is “extremely disappointed” by both countries’ recent decisions, which the company has said are “driven by politics," according to CNN.
Australia has over 8 million TikTok users over the age of 18, according to a report from DataReportal from early 2023. Hunter believes those users “deserve a government which makes decisions based upon facts and who treats all businesses fairly, regardless of country of origin.”
There is no direct evidence that the Chinese government has accessed user data on the app, which TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew denied while testifying before the U.S. Congress in March. Still, many countries across the globe are convinced that such data access could easily occur.
TikTok's parent company ByteDance acknowledged in December that its employees had inappropriately obtained the data of two US TikTok users who were reporters, along with a few of their associates.
So far, India is the only country to completely ban the ByteDance-owned platform for all citizens, in 2020.
If the White House does decide to enforce a nationwide ban of TikTok, which would affect 150 million users, it’s likely that the “Five Eyes” –– a so-called intelligence alliance between the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand –– could do the same.
In a letter written in February, the American Civil Liberties Union addressed the House Foreign Affairs Committee to protest the bill, stating that a nationwide TikTok ban would violate Americans’ First Amendment rights.
Also protesting ongoing bans are thousands of creators and marketers whose careers and income depend on the platform and its industry-leading algorithm.