Taiwan Bars TikTok From Government Devices, Considers Nationwide Ban

Taiwan Bars TikTok From Government Devices, Considers Nationwide Ban
The download page for the TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone in Washington, on Aug. 7, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

Taiwan is considering a nationwide ban on TikTok after barring the Chinese-owned video app from government communication devices over national security concerns, according to an official.

Minister of Digital Affairs Audrey Tang said on Dec. 9 that an inter-ministerial committee meeting will be held this month to discuss the possibility of extending the ban to the public, Taiwan News reported.

The ban on the installation of TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin, also applies to the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu, also known as Little Red Book. An unnamed official from the Digital Affairs Ministry said the affected devices include mobile phones, tablets, and desktops.

Mark Ho, a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said at a legislative meeting on Dec. 6 that the video app owned by ByteDance could be used to spread “united front disinformation.”
Beijing-based firm ByteDance doesn’t have a branch in Taiwan, and Chinese-funded companies aren’t allowed to run online platforms in the country, according to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council.

The Chinese regime claims democratically-run Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to conquer the island nation by force if necessary.

But numerous accounts on the Douyin app impersonating Premier Su Tseng-chang and Taiwanese government agencies raised security concerns, Ho said.

A TikTok spokesperson told The Epoch Times by email that the company is be “happy to continue having constructive meetings with state policymakers” to discuss the privacy and security practices of the app.

“We believe the concerns driving these decisions are largely fueled by misinformation about our company,” they said. “We are disappointed that many state agencies, offices, and universities will no longer be able to use TikTok to build communities and connect with constituents.”

US Security Concerns

Brendan Carr, one of five commissioners at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, commended Taiwan’s “smart” and “strong leadership” in banning TikTok from public sector devices.
He had previously urged the United States to ban TikTok because he says it would be impossible for U.S. officials to determine whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had access to TikTok users’ data.
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said TikTok is part of the CCP’s strategy to gather data on individuals around the world. What the regime will use the data for isn’t clear, officials say.

“We do have national security concerns, obviously from the FBI’s end, about TikTok,” Wray told Congress during testimony in November.

“They include the possibility that the [CCP] could use it to control data collection on millions of users, or control the recommendation algorithm which could be used for influence operations if they so choose, or to control software on millions of devices.”

TikTok issued a statement on Nov. 2 stating that its “privacy policy” is “based on a demonstrated need to do their job,” which applies to “the European economic area, United Kingdom, and Switzerland.”

Elaine Fox, TikTok’s head of privacy for Europe, said that even though the social media app currently stores European user data in the United States and Singapore, it allows “certain employees within our corporate group” to have remote access to TikTok European user data.

Fox said employee access was “subject to a series of robust security controls and approval protocols, and by way of methods that are recognized under the General Data Protection Regulation.”

Jack Phillips and Bryan Jung contributed to this report.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comment from TikTok.