Where is the best place in London to take a selfie with Big Ben? This is the topic of the only video on the government’s new TikTok page for Parliament.
Usually the content of a social media post is controversial, but the very existence of @UKParliament as a social media platform, which has just 123 followers so far, is controversial in Westminster.
Senior Conservative MPs and members of the House of Lords who have previously been sanctioned by China have “approached parliamentary authorities” for creating an account that belongs to Chinese tech company ByteDance, Politico reports.
Tom Tugendhat, Iain Duncan Smith and Nusrat Ghani are among the politicians calling for the account to be closed “due to concerns that TikTok user data will be transferred to China,” the news site reported.
In a joint letter that was sent to the Speakers of the House of Commons and the House of Lords on Wednesday and reviewed by Politico’s London Playbook, the group said they were “surprised and disappointed” with the creation of the TikTok account. “The prospect of the Xi Jinping government gaining access to personal data on our children’s phones should be of great concern,” the letter said. He called for the account to be closed “until credible assurances are given that no data can be transferred to China.”
The group cited the National Intelligence Act of 2017, which requires companies to provide data to government agencies upon request. “They questioned the assurances of a TikTok chief in parliament in 2021 that his user data is not shared with ByteDance in China.”
Tugendhat, Duncan Smith and Ghani were sanctioned last year after the Chinese government said they “maliciously spread lies and misinformation” about human rights violations.
“The sanctions did not come as a surprise to Tugendhat,” Foreign Policy said. The “British MP most hated by China” has chaired the Parliament’s Select Committee on Foreign Affairs since 2017 and “has done his best to harden British policy towards the Chinese state,” the magazine said.
Duncan Smith said he views the sanctions, which prevent individuals and their immediate families from entering China and doing business with Chinese institutions or citizens, as a “badge of honour.”
Last week, Internet 2.0 cybersecurity experts warned Australian TikTok users that the social network was collecting “excessive” amounts of personal data and that the app could be used by the Chinese government to “collect personal information, from in-app messages with friends to the exact location of a device,” it said. The Guardian.
It remains to be seen if @UKParliament followers will see more of the “bts news and content from the Big Ben conservation” that the account bio promised.