Parliament quits TikTok over security fears, No 10 urged to follow suit

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UK Parliament has ditched its TikTok account and deleted all content just a week after it launched, following China’s decision to sanction some MPs and peers.

Downing Street and all UK politicians have been urged to do the same because of concerns over the app’s links to China.

The @ukparliament account on TikTok was closed down today (August 3) on the orders of the Speakers of the Commons and Lords who said they had not been consulted about is creation but had been made aware of reasons for concern.

Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Foreign Affairs select committee and Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative party leader were part of a group of UK parliamentarians to warn the Speakers last month about “considerable” data security risks of the app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

“We cannot and should not legitimise the use of an app which has been described by tech experts as “essentially Chinese government spyware”, the letter to the Speakers states.

TikTok data is ‘routinely transferred to China’

Concerns are rising about the type of data being collected by the Chinese company given the amount of personal information including facial and location details being shared on the social media platform.

In their letter, the group of politicians warned that TikTok data is “routinely transferred to China” despite assurances to the contrary given to MPs last year, suggesting TikTok executives “may have misled parliament”.

Commons’ speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and his Lords’ counterpart Lord John McFall said they had not been consulted on plans for the pilot launch of the parliament account and said it would be closed “with immediate effect”.

The account, Hoyle and McFall said, was “an attempt to engage with younger aundiences – who are not always active on our existing social media platforms – regarding the work of parliament”.

The @ukparliament account had only one post – a video advising tourists of the best way to take a selfie with Big Ben.

Duncan Smith said he is “over the moon” at the Speakers’ decision and warned it “should send a strong signal to everybody else that they shouldn’t be setting up TikTok accounts because they’re a threat”.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries’ TikTok account has had 2.4 million hits – including her rap explaining the online safety bill – and several other MPs also have accounts.

Downing Street’s Tiktok – @10downingstreet – is the official “page for prime minister Boris Johnson’s office” and has more than 290,000 followers and almost one million likes.

After the Speakers’ intervention, Duncan Smith said the “message from the UK parliament itself is that TikTok is a risk so MPs should be taking their accounts down”.

“They now need to heed that lesson because for too long we’ve been pretending otherwise,” said Duncan Smith. It is “time for us to recognise the dangers”, he added, saying all MP and official government accounts should be deleted “right away”.

A spokesperson for TikTok said the Speakers’ decision was disappointing and added: “We reiterate the offer to reassure those members of parliament who raised concerns and clarify any inaccuracies about our platform.”

Stoke tops Airbnb’s ‘unique’ UK list

Elsewhere, Airbnb has surprised many by announcing Stoke-on-Trent tops its list of key destinations in the UK.

It is a city that “has seen better days”, reports the Telegraph, and is probably better known for oatcakes, pottery and for being the headquarters of Bet365, rather than as a ”staycation” destination.

However, Stoke has come top of the pile for people looking to spend a few days away in a “unique” property such as a converted barn, windmill, lighthouse or treehouse, beating more traditional hotspots like Scarborough, Isle of Lewis and Paignton.

Airbnb’s unique listings in the UK brought in a total £134 million in 2021 – more than 10% of the platform’s global figure for the category.

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