Sexual predators. Addictive features. Suicide and eating disorders. Unrealistic beauty standards. Bullying. These are just some of the issues young people are dealing with on social media — and children's advocates and lawmakers say companies are not doing enough to protect them. On Wednesday, the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, X and other social media companies went before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a time when lawmakers and parents are growing increasingly concerned about the effects of social media on young people’s lives. The hearing began with recorded testimony from kids and parents who said they or their children were exploited on social media. Throughout the hourslong event, parents who lost children to suicide silently held up pictures of their dead kids. "They’re responsible for many of the dangers our children face online,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who chairs the committee, said in opening remarks. “Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk.” Meta's initial decisions to remove 2 videos of Israel-Hamas war is reversed by Oversight Board In a heated question and answer session with Mark Zuckerberg, Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley asked the Meta CEO if he has personally compensated any of the victims and their families for what they have been through. “I don't think so,” Zuckerberg replied. “There's families of victims here,” Hawley said. “Would you like to apologize to them?” Zuckerberg stood, turned away from his microphone and the senators, and directly addressed the parents in the gallery. “I’m sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should go through the things that your families have suffered,” he said, adding that Meta continues to invest and work on “industrywide efforts” to protect children. But time and time again, children’s advocates and parents have stressed that none of the companies are doing enough. One of the parents who attended the hearing was Neveen Radwan, whose teenage daughter got sucked in to a “black hole of dangerous content” on TikTok and Instagram after she started looking at videos on healthy eating and exercise at the onset of the COVID lockdowns. She developed anorexia within a few months and nearly died, Radwan recalled. “Nothing that was said today was different than what we expected,” Radwan said. “It was a lot of promises and a lot of, quite honestly, a lot of talk without them really saying anything. The apology that he made, while it was appreciated, it was a little bit too little, too late, of course.” But Radwan, whose daughter is now 19 and in college, said she felt a “significant shift” in the energy as she sat through the hearing, listening to the senators grill the social media CEOs in tense exchanges. “The energy in the room was, very, very palpable. Just by our presence there, I think it was very noticeable how our presence was affecting the senators,” she said. Hawley continued to press Zuckerberg, asking if he'd take personal responsibility for the harms his company has caused. Zuckerberg stayed on message and repeated that Meta's job is to “build industry-leading tools” and empower parents. “To make money,” Hawley cut in. Israeli defense minister says war on Hamas will last months as US envoy discusses timetable South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, echoed Durbin's sentiments and said he's prepared to work with Democrats to solve the issue. “After years of working on this issue with you and others, I’ve come to conclude the following: Social media companies as they’re currently designed and operate are dangerous products," Graham said. The executives touted existing safety tools on their platforms and the work they’ve done with nonprofits and law enforcement to protect minors. Snapchat broke ranks ahead of the hearing and is backing a federal bill that would create a legal liability for apps and social platforms that recommend harmful content to minors. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel reiterated the company’s support on Wednesday and asked the industry to back the bill. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said the company is vigilant about enforcing its policy barring children under 13 from using the app. CEO Linda Yaccarino said X, formerly Twitter, doesn’t cater to children. “We do not have a line of business dedicated to children,” Yaccarino said. She said the company will also support Stop CSAM Act, a federal bill that makes it easier for victims of child exploitation to sue tech companies. Yet child health advocates say social media companies have failed repeatedly to protect minors. Profits should not be the primary concern when companies are faced with safety and privacy decisions, said Zamaan Qureshi, co-chair of Design It For Us, a youth-led coalition advocating for safer social media. “These companies have had opportunities to do this before they failed to do that. So independent regulation needs to step in.” Republican and Democratic senators came together in a rare show of agreement throughout the hearing, though it’s not yet clear if this will be enough to pass legislation such as the Kids Online Safety Act, proposed in 2022 by Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. “There is pretty clearly a bipartisan consensus that the status quo isn’t working," said New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez, a Democrat. “When it comes to how these companies have failed to prioritize the safety of children, there’s clearly a sense of frustration on both sides of the aisle.” Meta is being sued by dozens of states that say it deliberately designs features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms. New Mexico filed a separate lawsuit saying the company has failed to protect them from online predators. New internal emails between Meta executives released by Blumenthal’s office show Nick Clegg, the company's president of global affairs, and others asking Zuckerberg to hire more people to strengthen "wellbeing across the company” as concerns grew about effects on youth mental health. “From a policy perspective, this work has become increasingly urgent over recent months. Politicians in the U.S., U.K., E.U. and Australia are publicly and privately expressing concerns about the impact of our products on young people’s mental health,” Clegg wrote in an August 2021 email. The emails released by Blumenthal’s office don’t appear to include a response, if there was any, from Zuckerberg. In September 2021, The Wall Street Journal released the Facebook Files, its report based on internal documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who later testified before the Senate. Clegg followed up on the August email in November with a scaled-down proposal but it does not appear that anything was approved. “I’ve spoken to many of the parents at the hearing. The harm their children experienced, all that loss of innocent life, is eminently preventable. When Mark says ‘Our job is building the best tools we can,’ that is just not true,” said Arturo Béjar, a former engineering director at the social media giant known for his expertise in curbing online harassment who recently testified before Congress about child safety on Meta’s platforms. “They know how much harm teens are experiencing, yet they won’t commit to reducing it, and most importantly to be transparent about it. They have the infrastructure to do it, the research, the people, it is a matter of prioritization.” Béjar said the emails and Zuckerberg's testimony show that Meta and its CEO “do not care about the harm teens experience” on their platforms. “Nick Clegg writes about profound gaps with addiction, self-harm, bullying and harassment to Mark. Mark did not respond, and those gaps are unaddressed today. Clegg asked for 84 engineers of 30,000,” Béjar said. “Children are not his priority.” Read more: Facebook parent Meta hit with record fine for transferring European user data to US
A new report by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism suggests that Facebook is becoming significantly less important as a source of news. The report titled “Digital News Report -2023” found that only 28% of people surveyed accessed news through Facebook in 2023, compared to 42% in 2016. The figures were based on interviews with some 94,000 people across 46 countries, conducted for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, part of Britain's University of Oxford. “Facebook remains one of the most-used social networks overall, but its influence on journalism is declining as it shifts its focus away from news,” Lead author Nic Newman said in a press release. Also read: CNN head Chris Licht is out at the global news network after a brief, tumultuous tenure Newman highlighted that Facebook now faces new challenges from established networks such as YouTube and vibrant youth-focused networks such as TikTok. “The Chinese-owned social network reaches 44% of 18–24s across markets and 20% for news. It is growing fastest in parts of Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America,” he said. Meanwhile, the report found that influencers and celebrities are increasingly taking over from journalists as the main source of news for young people across almost all social media platforms except for Twitter and Facebook. A new report by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism suggests that Facebook is becoming significantly less important as a source of news. Also read: Lack of transparency exposes Bangladeshi news sites to disinformation risks: new report The report titled “Digital News Report -2023” found that only 28% of people surveyed accessed news through Facebook in 2023, compared to 42% in 2016. The figures were based on interviews with some 94,000 people across 46 countries, conducted for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, part of Britain's University of Oxford. “Facebook remains one of the most-used social networks overall, but its influence on journalism is declining as it shifts its focus away from news,” Lead author Nic Newman said in a press release. Newman highlighted that Facebook now faces new challenges from established networks such as YouTube and vibrant youth-focused networks such as TikTok. Also read: Trial begins in case against Fox News for false election claims “The Chinese-owned social network reaches 44% of 18–24s across markets and 20% for news. It is growing fastest in parts of Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America,” he said. Meanwhile, the report found that influencers and celebrities are increasingly taking over from journalists as the main source of news for young people across almost all social media platforms except for Twitter and Facebook. According to the report, 55 percent of TikTok and Snapchat users and 52 percent of Instagram users get their news from "personalities" — compared to 33 percent of Tiktok, 36 percent of Snapchat and 42 percent of Instagram users who get it from mainstream media and journalists on those platforms, which are most popular among the young. “We find that, while mainstream journalists often lead conversations around news in Twitter and Facebook, they struggle to get attention in newer networks like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, where personalities, influencers, and ordinary people are often more prominent, even when it comes to conversations around news,” Newman said. Also read: Tucker Carlson leaves Fox News Trust and interest in news Among other indicators, the news industry has seen a sharp decline in terms of trust and interest. According to the report, trust in the news has fallen across markets by further 2-percentage points in the last year, reversing in many countries the gains made at the height of the pandemic. “On average, 40% of our sample say they trust most news most of the time,” the lead author of the report said. Meanwhile, around 36% of the interviewees said they actively avoided the news sometimes or often, seven points above the figure in 2017 but two points lower than last year. Read more: Journalism award to recognize outstanding reporting on Bangladesh-China trade, investment ties In interviews, many said that news stories are too repetitive or too “emotionally draining”. According to the report, 55 percent of TikTok and Snapchat users and 52 percent of Instagram users get their news from "personalities" — compared to 33 percent of Tiktok, 36 percent of Snapchat and 42 percent of Instagram users who get it from mainstream media and journalists on those platforms, which are most popular among the young. “We find that, while mainstream journalists often lead conversations around news in Twitter and Facebook, they struggle to get attention in newer networks like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, where personalities, influencers, and ordinary people are often more prominent, even when it comes to conversations around news,” Newman said. Trust and interest in news Among other indicators, the news industry has seen a sharp decline in terms of trust and interest. Read more: Women’s participation in journalism still very low: Dialogue According to the report, trust in the news has fallen across markets by further 2-percentage points in the last year, reversing in many countries the gains made at the height of the pandemic. “On average, 40% of our sample say they trust most news most of the time,” the lead author of the report said. Meanwhile, around 36% of the interviewees said they actively avoided the news sometimes or often, seven points above the figure in 2017 but two points lower than last year. In interviews, many said that news stories are too repetitive or too “emotionally draining”. Read more: Russian House lauds growing presence of online journalism in Bangladesh
TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon and other Big Tech companies are facing rising pressure from European authorities as London and Brussels advanced new rules Tuesday to curb the power of digital companies. The U.K. government unveiled draft legislation that would give regulators more power to protect consumers from online scams and fake reviews and boost digital competition. Meanwhile, the European Union was set to release a list of the 19 biggest online platforms and search engines that face extra scrutiny and obligations under the 27-nation bloc's landmark digital rules taking effect later this year. Also Read: TikTok attorney: China can’t get U.S. data under plan The updates help solidify Europe’s reputation as the global leader in efforts to rein in the power of social media companies and other digital platforms. Britain's Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers bill proposes giving watchdogs more teeth to draw down the dominance of tech companies, backed by the threat of fines worth up to 10% of their annual revenue. Under the proposals, online platforms and search engines can be required to give rivals access to their data or be more transparent about how their app stores and marketplaces work. The rules would make it illegal to hire someone to write a fake review or allow the posting of online consumer reviews “without taking reasonable steps" to verify they're genuine. They also would make it easier for consumers get out of online subscriptions. The new rules, which still need go through the legislative process and secure parliamentary approval, would apply only to companies with 25 million pounds in global revenue or 1 billion pounds in U.K. revenue. Also Read: Twitter restores blue tick to high-profile accounts with over 1 million followers Also Tuesday, the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, is set to designate 19 of the biggest online platforms or search engines that will have to take extra steps to clean up illegal content and disinformation and keep users safe online. Violations of the bloc’s new Digital Services Act could result in fines worth up to 6% of a company’s annual global revenue — amounting to billions of dollars — or even a ban on operating in the EU. Google, Twitter, TikTok, Apple, Facebook and Instagram have already disclosed that they have more than 45 million users in Europe, putting them over the bloc's threshold.
U.S. lawmakers have grilled TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew about data security and harmful content, with some pushing to ban the popular short-video app nationwide. A Singaporean native, Chew told the lawmakers that TikTok prioritizes user safety and as he sought to avert a ban by downplaying the app's ties to China. Both Republican and Democratic representatives aggressively questioned Chew on topics including TikTok’s content moderation practices, its data security plans, and past spying on journalists. Also Read: Skeptical US lawmakers grill TikTok CEO over safety, content Here's a look at some of the concerns about TikTok and its ownership. WHY DOES WASHINGTON SAY TIKTOK IS A THREAT? TikTok, which has over 150 million American users, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese technology firm ByteDance Ltd., which appoints its executives. ByteDance is based in Beijing but registered in the Cayman Islands, as is common for privately owned Chinese companies. Its headquarters is in Beijing’s northwestern Haidian district, home to key universities and a hub for tech startups. Founded by Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yiming in 2012, ByteDance is said to be valued at around $220 billion — nearly half of its 2021 valuation of $400 billion. Publicly traded Chinese tech companies and privately held ones like ByteDance have plunged in value since the ruling Communist Party tightened control over the industry with anti-monopoly and data security crackdowns. Western governments worry Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to hand over TikTok data on American users, exposing sensitive information. China has denied asking its companies to hand over overseas data, and TikTok insists it has never done so and would not do so. Also Read: TikTok CEO to tell Congress app is safe, urge against ban ByteDance says 60% of its shares are owned by non-Chinese investors such as U.S investment firms Carlyle Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Japan's SoftBank Group. Employees own 20% and its founders the remaining 20%. Some details of the relationship between TikTok and ByteDance remain unclear to outsiders. WHAT CHINESE RULES WORRY WESTERN GOVERNMENTS? China's 2017 National Intelligence Law states that “any organization" must assist or cooperate with state intelligence work while a separate 2014 Counter-Espionage Law says “relevant organizations ... may not refuse" to collect evidence for an investigation. Since ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is a Chinese company, it would likely have to abide by these rules if Chinese authorities asked it to turn over data. Laws and regulations are only one aspect of the Communist Party’s pervasive control. There are no legal limits on the party’s powers. The authorities also can threaten to cancel licenses, conduct regulatory or tax investigations and use other penalties to compel compliance by Chinese and foreign companies operating in China. Also Read: China appeals for fair treatment after latest TikTok bans The party sometimes conveys orders using “window guidance,” or informal communication in private. It has used crackdowns to tighten control over technology companies and force them to align with its goals. The Chinese government has also sought more direct control over companies by getting seats on boards of directors. MUST TIKTOK TURN OVER DATA IF THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT SAYS SO, EVEN WITH “ PROJECT TEXAS?” TikTok has promised to protect data on American users by storing them on servers operated by an outside contractor, Oracle Corp., in what’s known as “Project Texas.” Chew, the TikTok CEO, said all new U.S. user data are stored in the United States and the company should finish deleting older U.S. data from non-Oracle servers this year. The fear is that ByteDance would have to hand over information it obtained from TikTok if ordered to do so by Chinese authorities, but Chew has said Project Texas will put U.S. data out of China's reach. Also Read: TikTok dismisses calls for Chinese owners to sell stakes ByteDance disclosed in December that four employees gained access to data about reporters and people connected to them while looking for how information about the company was leaked. Chew told the lawmakers China-based ByteDance employees may still have access to some U.S. data but that won't be the case once Project Texas is complete. In November, TikTok’s head of privacy for Europe said some employees in China had access to information about users in Britain and the European Union. DOES THE COMMUNIST PARTY HAVE ANY INFLUENCE ON BYTEDANCE? In Thursday’s hearing, lawmakers repeatedly tried to pin down Chew on whether ByteDance had links to China’s communist rulers. He deflected questions about whether staff and top executives are Communist Party members. “I do know that the founder himself is not a member of the Communist Party, but we don’t know the political affiliation of our employees because that’s not something we ask,” Chew said. When questioned whether ByteDance was effectively controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, Chew said he disagreed. After a lawmaker said the Communist Party holds a “golden share” in ByteDance that allows it to control one ByteDance board seat, Chew said, “That’s not correct.” In China, so-called golden shares held by official investment funds are one way for Beijing to gain more oversight over business by giving them a 1% stake in companies. Also Read: White House: No more TikTok on gov’t devices within 30 days Chew pushed back when lawmakers claimed that the Communist Party owns shares in ByteDance that give it a vote in how the company is run. “The Communist Party doesn’t have voting rights in ByteDance,” Chew said. ByteDance’s main Chinese subsidiary is the license-holder for some of its video and information platforms that only serve the China market. Official investment funds have also bought 1% of the Chinese subsidiary of Weibo Corp., the country’s most popular microblog platform, and also of domestic subsidiaries of Alibaba. WHAT IS DOUYIN AND WHAT IS TIKTOK'S RELATIONSHIP WITH IT? DouYin is ByteDance’s short-video platform for the China market. It's similar to TikTok, but its content is restricted by Chinese censorship rules that prohibit material deemed subversive or pornographic - a point emphasized by U.S. lawmakers worried about harmful content viewed by young people. Also Read: China says TikTok ban reflects US insecurities The Communist Party’s extensive internet filters block most users in China from seeing TikTok. ByteDance has said TikTok has “no affiliation” with Beijing ByteDance Technology Co., the subsidiary that operates DouYin; Toutiao, a news and short-video platform, and other services. HOW DID CHINA REACT TO THE TIKTOK CEO'S WASHINGTON TESTIMONY? Most of the social media reaction in China was sympathetic to Chew, with praise for how he handled the hostile questions lobbed at him. Comments on the microblogging platforms Weibo and Douyin were critical of U.S. lawmakers for asking Chew leading or “trap” questions. Many commenters used a Chinese saying that means “If you want to accuse someone, there's always a way."
New Zealand lawmakers and other workers inside the nation's Parliament will be banned from having the TikTok app on their government phones, officials said Friday. The ban, which takes effect at the end of the month, follows similar moves in many other countries. However, New Zealand's ban will apply only to about 500 people in the parliamentary complex, not to all government workers like bans in the U.S. and Britain. Other New Zealand agencies could decide later to impose their own bans. Global concern about the app comes after warnings by the FBI and other agencies that TikTok's Chinese parent company ByteDance could share TikTok user data — such as browsing history, location and biometric identifiers — with China’s authoritarian government. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he didn't have TikTok on his phone. “I'm not that hip and trendy,” he told reporters. The New Zealand move came on the advice of government cybersecurity experts, said Parliamentary Service Chief Executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero. He said the app would be removed from all devices with access to the parliamentary network, although officials could make special arrangements for anybody who needed TikTok to perform their democratic duties. “This decision has been made based on our own experts’ analysis and following discussion with our colleagues across government and internationally," Gonzalez-Montero said in a statement. "Based on this information, the service has determined that the risks are not acceptable in the current New Zealand parliamentary environment.” Hipkins said cybersecurity advice came from New Zealand's intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau. He said New Zealand didn't take a blanket approach to all government workers, and it would be up to each department or agency to make cybersecurity decisions.
TikTok was dismissive Wednesday of reports that the Biden administration was calling for its Chinese owners to sell their stakes in the popular video-sharing app, saying such a move wouldn't help protect national security. The company was responding to a report in The Wall Street Journal that said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., part of the Treasury Department, was threatening a U.S. ban on the app unless its owners, Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., divested. “If protecting national security is the objective, divestment doesn’t solve the problem: a change in ownership would not impose any new restrictions on data flows or access," TikTok spokesperson Maureen Shanahan said. "The best way to address concerns about national security is with the transparent, U.S.-based protection of U.S. user data and systems, with robust third-party monitoring, vetting, and verification, which we are already implementing.” The Journal report cited anonymous “people familiar with the matter.” The Treasury Department and the White House’s National Security Council declined to comment. Late last month, the White House gave all federal agencies 30 days to wipe TikTok off all government devices. The Office of Management and Budget called the guidance a “critical step forward in addressing the risks presented by the app to sensitive government data.” Some agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State, already have restrictions in place. The White House already does not allow TikTok on its devices. Congress passed the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” in December as part of a sweeping government funding package. The legislation does allow for TikTok use in certain cases, including for national security, law enforcement and research purposes. Meanwhile, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have been moving forward with legislation that would give the Biden administration more power to clamp down on TikTok. Rep. Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has been a vocal critic of the app, saying the Chinese Communist Party is using it to “manipulate and monitor its users while it gobbles up Americans’ data to be used for their malign activities.” “Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the CCP a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon into your phone,” the Texas Republican said. TikTok remains extremely popular and is used by two-thirds of teens in the U.S. But there is increasing concern that Beijing could obtain control of American user data that the app has obtained. The company has been dismissive of the ban for federal devices and has noted that it is developing security and data privacy plans as part of the Biden administration’s ongoing national security review.
The White House is giving all federal agencies 30 days to wipe TikTok off all government devices, as the Chinese-owned social media app comes under increasing scrutiny in Washington over security concerns. The Office of Management and Budget calls the guidance, issued Monday, a “critical step forward in addressing the risks presented by the app to sensitive government data.” Some agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State, already have restrictions in place; the guidance calls on the rest of the federal government to follow suit within 30 days. The White House already does not allow TikTok on its devices. “The Biden-Harris Administration has invested heavily in defending our nation’s digital infrastructure and curbing foreign adversaries’ access to Americans’ data,” said Chris DeRusha, the federal chief information security officer. “This guidance is part of the Administration’s ongoing commitment to securing our digital infrastructure and protecting the American people’s security and privacy.” The guidance was first reported by Reuters. Also Read: TikTok banned on all Canadian government mobile devices Congress passed the “No TikTok on Government Devices Act” in December as part of a sweeping government funding package. The legislation does allow for TikTok use in certain cases, including for national security, law enforcement and research purposes. TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said Monday: “The ban of TikTok on federal devices passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments. These bans are little more than political theater.” House Republicans are expected to move forward Tuesday with a bill that would give Biden the power to ban TikTok nationwide. The legislation, proposed by Rep. Mike McCaul, looks to circumvent the challenges the administration would face in court if it moved forward with sanctions against the social media company. Also Read: China says TikTok ban reflects US insecurities If passed, the proposal would allow the administration to ban not only TikTok but any software applications that threaten national security. McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has been a vocal critic of the app, saying it is being used by the Chinese Communist Party to “manipulate and monitor its users while it gobbles up Americans’ data to be used for their malign activities.” “Anyone with TikTok downloaded on their device has given the CCP a backdoor to all their personal information. It’s a spy balloon into your phone,” the Texas Republican said in a statement Monday. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., his counterpart in the Senate, did not shut down the idea of the chamber taking up a proposal that would empower Biden to take action against TikTok, saying it was “certainly something to consider.” Oberwetter said: “We hope that when it comes to addressing national security concerns about TikTok beyond government devices, Congress will explore solutions that won’t have the effect of censoring the voices of millions of Americans.” TikTok, owned by ByteDance Ltd., remains extremely popular and is used by two-thirds of teens in the U.S. But there is increasing concern that Beijing could obtain control of American user data that the app has obtained. The company has been dismissive of the ban for federal devices and has noted that it is developing security and data privacy plans as part of the Biden administration’s ongoing national security review. Canada also announced Monday that it is banning TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices. The European Union’s executive branch said last week it has temporarily banned TikTok from phones used by employees as a cybersecurity measure.
Canada announced Monday it is banning TikTok from all government-issued mobile devices, reflecting widening worries from Western officials over the Chinese-owned video sharing app. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it might be a first step to further action or that it might be it. “I suspect that as government takes the significant step of telling all federal employees that they can no longer use TikTok on their work phones many Canadians from business to private individuals will reflect on the security of their own data and perhaps make choices,” Trudeau said. “I’m always a fan of giving Canadians the information for them to make the right decisions for them,” he added. Read: TikTok plans 2 more European data centers amid privacy fears The European Union’s executive branch said last week it has temporarily banned TikTok from phones used by employees as a cybersecurity measure. The EU’s action follows similar moves in the U.S., where more than half of the states and Congress have banned TikTok from official government devices. Last week, Canada’s federal privacy watchdog and its provincial counterparts in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec announced an investigation to delve into whether the app complies with Canadian privacy legislation. TikTok is wildly popular with young people, but its Chinese ownership has raised fears that Beijing could use it to collect data on Western users or push pro-China narratives and misinformation. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020 TikTok faces intensifying scrutiny from Europe and America over security and data privacy amid worries that the app could be used to promote pro-Beijing views or sweep up users’ information. It comes as China and the West are locked in a wider tug of war over technology ranging from spy balloons to computer chips. Canadian Treasury Board President Mona Fortier said the federal government will also block the app from being downloaded on official devices in the future. Fortier said in statement the Chief Information Officer of Canada determined that it “presents an unacceptable level of risk to privacy and security.” The app will be removed from Canadian government issued phones on Tuesday. “On a mobile device, TikTok’s data collection methods provide considerable access to the contents of the phone,” Fortier said. Read: UW System bans TikTok use on system devices “While the risks of using this application are clear, we have no evidence at this point that government information has been compromised.” Recent media reports have also raised concerns about potential Chinese interference in recent Canadian elections, prompting opposition parties to call for a public inquiry into alleged foreign election interference. “It’s curious that the Government of Canada has moved to block TikTok on government-issued devices—without citing any specific security concern or contacting us with questions—only after similar bans were introduced in the EU and the US,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a email. The company is always available to discuss the privacy and security of Canadians, the statement said. “Singling out TikTok in this way does nothing to achieve that shared goal,” the email said. “All it does is prevent officials from reaching the public on a platform loved by millions of Canadians.”
TikTok said Friday that it’s planning two more European data centers, as the popular Chinese-owned video sharing app seeks to allay growing concerns about data privacy for its users in the West. TikTok has been under fire from European and American authorities over concerns that it could scoop up masses of user data and send it to China. The company’s general manager for European operations, Rich Waterworth, said in a blog post that it is “at an advanced stage of finalizing a plan” with a third-party provider for a second data center in Ireland. It announced its first center there last year. TikTok also is in talks to set up a third European data center, without specifying a location. “Regarding local data storage, in line with the growth of our community, we’re looking to expand our European data storage capacity,” Waterworth said. READ: Group: Tesla workers fired after union push at NY plant Data for European TikTok users will be migrated to the new centers starting this year, Waterworth said. TikTok is wildly popular with young people, but its Chinese ownership has raised fears that Beijing could use it to collect data on Western users or push pro-China narratives and misinformation. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. A top European Union official warned CEO Shou Zi Chew last month that the company would have to comply with the 27-nation bloc’s sweeping new digital rules. The Digital Services Act mandates that online platforms and tech companies with 45 million or more users take extra steps aimed at cleaning up illegal content and disinformation or face potentially billions in fines. TikTok reported Friday that it had 125 million monthly active users in the EU, putting it over the threshold for extra scrutiny under the new rules set to take effect later this year. Including non-EU countries such as Britain and Switzerland, TikTok has 150 million users. Google, Twitter, Apple and Facebook and Instagram will also face the stricter EU scrutiny, according to monthly user numbers they released in time for a Friday deadline. Facebook has 255 million monthly active users, while Instagram has 250 million users, parent company Meta said. Twitter said it has 100.9 million users, including both registered users and those who didn’t sign in. Apple said its iOS App Store had more than 45 million users but didn’t give a specific number. Google said its Search service has 332 million signed-in users, while YouTube has 401.7 million signed-in users.