The UK Parliament has closed down its TikTok account over concerns that its Chinese parent could be forced to hand over data to authorities.

Sky News reported that a number of members had written to the speakers in both the Commons and Lords last week, calling for the social media account to be closed down, saying they were “surprised and disappointed” it had been launched after “recent reports have made clear that… TikTok data is routinely transferred to China.”

The lead author of the letter is Tory MP Nus Ghani, which was also signed by foreign affairs select committee chair Tom Tugendhat and ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, as well as a few others.

Account closure

In their response, Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Lord McFall members were not consulted about the launch of the TikTok account, and the account was “an attempt to engage with younger audiences – who are not always active on our existing social media platforms – regarding the work of parliament.”

They said, after conversations with officials and in light of the letter, “we have decided that the account should be closed with immediate effect.”

Nus Ghani on Twitter thanked the Commons Speaker and Lords Speaker for “standing up for ir values and protecting our data.”

Essentially the Parliamentarians are concerned that TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, can be compiled to hand over data to Chinese authorities.

China-based firms are legally obliged under the Chinese ‘2017 Intelligence Security law’ to hand over data to Beijing if requested.

TikTok response

TikTok however insisted to Sky News it does not operate in China, has never provided user data to the Chinese government, and its user data is stored in the US and Singapore – moving to Ireland in 2023 when its new data centre opens.

TikTok said it written to the MPs who signed the letter, offering to “meet with them to understand their concerns and explain our data protection processes.”

The social media platform also pointed to the fact many departments and politicians use TikTok, including Number 10 and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.

“While it is disappointing that Parliament will no longer be able to connect with the millions of people who use TikTok in the UK, we reiterate the offer to reassure those members of Parliament who raised concerns and clarify any inaccuracies about our platform,” a spokesperson for TikTok was quoted by Sky News as saying.

The No 10 TikTok has nearly 300,000 followers, was set up by Boris Johnson in October 2021.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith meanwhile has urged Downing Street and senior ministers with TikTok accounts to also shut their TikTok accounts.

He was quoted in the media as saying he was “over the moon” at the Speakers’ decision but added that it “should send a strong signal to everybody else that they shouldn’t setting up TikTok accounts because they’re a threat”.

Last month a cross-party group of 67 MPs and Lords called for the government to ban the use of CCTV surveillance equipment by two Chinese firms Hikvision and Dahua.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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