TikTok will no longer be available on official London City Hall devices, the Greater London Authority (GLA) said as the Chinese social media app faces a global purge from official institutions.
London’s TikTok ban comes after Westminster and Holyrood banned the app on government devices in England and Scotland over security concerns.
In an email to The Epoch Times on Saturday, a GLA spokesperson said, “The GLA takes information security extremely seriously. In line with the government’s decision, TikTok will no longer be available on GLA devices.”
In response to the latest ban, a TikTok spokesperson said: “As we have said, we believe these bans are based on fundamental misconceptions and driven by wider geopolitics.
“We are readily available to meet with the Mayor to address any concerns but should be judged on facts and treated equally to our competitors.
“We have begun implementing a comprehensive plan to further protect our European user data, which includes storing UK user data in our European data centres and tightening data access controls, including third-party independent oversight of our approach.”
A growing number of institutions around the world have banned TikTok on official devices following concerns including privacy, the influence of the app’s algorithms on children and young people’s mental health and political opinions, and TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company ByteDance.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden on March 16 announced the UK government’s TikTok ban on devices at all government departments, agencies, and arms-length bodies, saying an official review concluded that “it is clear that there could be a risk around how sensitive government data is accessed and used by certain platforms.”
Scotland followed the move on March 23 after discussions with Westminster. Deputy First Minister John Swinney said, “Social media apps collect and store huge amounts of user data, including contacts, user content, and geolocation data. On government devices, that data can be sensitive.”
On the same day, the Houses of Parliament said the app would be blocked from all parliamentary devices and the wider parliamentary network.
The BBC last week also reported that staff were told they should delete TikTok from corporate mobile devices, becoming the second media organisation to do so after Danish public broadcaster DR advised staff against using the app.
India banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps in June 2020, while Taiwan banned TikTok and some other Chinese apps on state-owned devices and in December 2022 launched a probe into the social media app over suspected illegal operations on the island.
More recently, the European Union, New Zealand Parliament, and governments of France, Belgium, Canada, Vancouver, the White House, and a number of U.S. states, have also announced their TikTok ban on official devices, and in some cases, private devices with access to official networks.
Beijing-based ByteDance has been employing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members in its highest ranks. The company, like many organisations in China, is also bound by the regime’s National Intelligence Law, which requires all organisations and citizens to “support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts.”
Beijing ‘Strongly Opposes’ TikTok–Bytedance Separation
TikTok recently said it was facing a total ban in the United States unless the ByteDance sells its stake in it, but Beijing on Thursday said any divestment in TikTok would have to be decided by the ruling communist regime.
Asked about the reported proposal, Shu Jueting, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Commerce, told reporters that Beijing “strongly opposes” the forced separation of TikTok and Bytedance and that any divestment in TikTok will raise issues of technology export and will have to abide by Chinese law.
The statement came hours before U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee grilled Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s Singaporean-born CEO, about the app’s effects on data privacy and children.
During the five-hour testimony, Chew told lawmakers that some U.S. user data are still stored on overseas servers that he believes would be deleted this year.
Asked about an ongoing Department of Justice investigation regarding how ByteDance employees illicitly used TikTok data to track American journalists without their knowledge, Chew said he disagrees with “the characterization that it was spying.”
One of the concerns over TikTok is the censorship of topics that are disliked by the Chinese communist regime, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the ongoing Uyghur genocide.
Asked by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) whether he agrees that the Chinese communist regime has persecuted the Uyghur population, Chew evaded the question five times, saying he was there to talk about TikTok.