Time is running out for TikTok

TikTok will pull out of Hong Kong within days, becoming the latest of several tech companies to react to the region's controversial new national security laws.


As the world looks towards TikTok an increasing spotlight on how they use data. With both USA and Australia considering removing the app altogether.


In Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison while commenting on calls to ban TikTok this week, said it’s “right for people to have an increased awareness of where these platforms originate and the risks they present”.


In the same breath, the Australian prime minister told the Sydney radio station 2GB he found it strange that people would raise privacy concerns about the Australian government’s CovidSafe app while also using the immensely popular youth-oriented social media platform. In doing so, Morrison essentially asked the Australian public to think critically about the technology they use – but only when it suits the Australian government.


The short-form video app announced its impending withdrawal from Hong Kong on Monday, with the news coming in the wake of new laws brought into effect on June 30. 


"In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong," a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement provided to Mashable.


Under Hong Kong's widely condemned new laws, criticising or expressing disapproval for government authorities may be considered a criminal offence. Companies operating within Hong Kong could also be required to censor content, or hand over user data to the Chinese government. That's exactly what TikTok doesn't want.

TikTok has continually denied accusations from several countries that it shares data with the Chinese government, and has recently made attempts to distance itself from China. Reuters reported in May that its Chinese parent company ByteDance is shifting TikTok's global decision-making and research power outside China, while the app released a statement addressing U.S. privacy concerns in October last year. 


"Let us be very clear: TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China. We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period," read TikTok's statement.


"We are not influenced by any foreign government, including the Chinese government; TikTok does not operate in China, nor do we have any intention of doing so in the future." (Though TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, the app is unavailable in mainland China.)


With the implementation of the new national security laws, TikTok may have no choice but to withdraw if it wants to keep this resolve. Hong Kong was already a relatively small, unprofitable market for TikTok, but it seems the risks now outweigh the rewards of staying.



TikTok isn't the only big name in tech to have been impacted by Hong Kong's national security laws. Twitter and Facebook both recently stopped responding to data requests from Hong Kong authorities pending review of the laws and their implications. The companies expressed concerns regarding the impact of the new laws, with a Facebook spokesperson telling Mashable it is consulting with international human rights experts.


"Like many public interest organizations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law," a Twitter spokesperson told Mashable.

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