March 17 (UPI) — New Zealand banned TikTok from all devices with parliamentary access, including lawmakers’ phones, on Friday, making it the latest democratic nation to restrict use of the wildly popular Chinese-owned smartphone application.
With more than 1 billion monthly users, the short-form video-hosting service TikTok is among the most popular social media platforms, but it has raised concerns among Western nations over its potential links to the Chinese Communist Party.
Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok has sparked fears over the potential leak of user data to the authoritarian Chinese government that have only increased after the United States shot down a Chinese spy balloon last month while allegedly it’s part of the Asian nation’s wide-ranging espionage campaign.
Republicans in the United States have viewed TikTok suspiciously for years and have moved on their own at the state-level to restrict its access, but the issue has grown more bipartisan and international since the early February balloon shootdown.
Canada, the European Parliament and other nations have since banned the application from all government devices in response, with the United States doing so in late February after Congress passed the No TikTok on Government Devices Act late last year.
Britain was the latest to institute such a ban, moving against the company on Thursday, the same day it was reported that the Biden administration has issued ByteDance an ultimatum: sell their stake in the app or it will be banned nationwide.
New Zealand Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero announced Friday that his office has informed Parliament lawmakers and staff that TikTok will be removed from all devices with access to their network.
He said the move was “on advice from our cybersecurity experts.”
“This decision has been made based on our own experts’ analysis and following discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally,” he said in a statement. “Based on this information the service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand Parliamentary environment.”
UPI has asked TikTok, which has repeatedly denied the allegations, for comment.
Meanwhile, China has reacted to the moves and allegations from the United States as fallacies and attempts to politicize technology and trade issues.
“The U.S. has yet to prove with evidence that TikTok threatens its national security,” Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday in a regular press conference in reaction to the ultimatum the Biden administration gave ByteDance.
“It should stop spreading disinformation about data security, stop suppressing relevant companies and provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for foreign businesses to invest and operate in the U.S.,” he said.