TikTok Aus: ‘Zero evidence’ app is national security risk as US Congress passes ban bill

Brett Armstrong tiktok advertising week

Brett Armstrong: “There is zero evidence suggesting that TikTok is in any way a national security risk.”

TikTok Australia has said there is “zero evidence” that the short-form video app is a “national security risk” to Australia, after the United States Congress passed a bill that could ban it in the next year.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed a bill giving TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, nine months to divest or sell its stake in TikTok or face a US-wide ban. The deadline can be extended by three months if there is progress to a sale.

TikTok has said it will challenge the legislation on free speech grounds under the US Constitution, the Australian Financial Review reported.

Brett Armstrong, general manager of global business solutions for TikTok Australia, said in a statement: “There is zero evidence suggesting that TikTok is in any way a national security risk, and we welcome the Prime Minister’s recent comments that his Government has no plans to ban us.

“TikTok is a platform that is loved by over 8.5 million Australians and 350,000 Australian businesses, with a recent independent study by Oxford Economics finding that we contribute $1.1billion and 13,000 jobs to the Australian economy.”

TikTok released its first Economic Impact Report, conducted by Oxford Economics, earlier this month. In addition to its contribution to the GDP and job market, the report revealed more than 8.5 million Australians on the platform were influenced to buy, visit, or donate to more than 350,000 businesses using TikTok.

Investments in advertising and marketing on TikTok (FY23) generated $1 billion in direct revenue for Australian businesses, and with flow on impacts, the GDP contribution grew to $1.1 billion.

“It was good to get that verification not from us, but from a third party that’s respected,” Armstrong told the AFR. “We’ve seen in the years of working in this market, these owners and businesses that have just found so much success through this platform.”

US Congress passed the bill to ban the app on Wednesday, as many of its members fear the platform could be used to collect Americans’ data and the Chinese Community Party could influence Americans’ opinions via TikTok owner ByteDance. These claims have been rejected by TikTok, the AFR reported.

Coalition home affairs spokesman, senator James Paterson, told the publication that if the Albanese government did not pass laws mirroring the US, TikTok could be split into two versions.

“[There could be] a safer one for Americans, free of Chinese Communist Party influence, and a dangerous one for the rest of the world including Australia beholden to an authoritarian state,” he added.

Paterson insisted the government act and that the Coalition would work with it in a bipartisan way.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told the AFR: “We are monitoring events in the US closely, and will take additional advice if any potential sale or new information from our agencies make it necessary.”

Last month, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed Australia has “no plans” to block Chinese-owned app.

“We’ll take advice, but we have no plans to do that. I think you’ve got to be pretty cautious,” he said during an interview with WSFM’s Jonesy and Amanda in March.

“You’ve always got to have national security concerns front and centre, but you also need to acknowledge that for a whole lot of people, this provides a way of them communicating. And so, we haven’t got advice at this stage to do that.”

The short-form video app has more than 170 million users in the US and 8.5 million in Australia.

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