Albo’s call on TikTok ban after US vote

Anthony Albanese says his government has no plans to outlaw TikTok. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Tim Pascoe

Anthony Albanese says his government has no plans at this stage to outlaw TikTok after the US took a major step towards banning the popular social media app.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday (local time) voted to pass a Bill that would ban users from accessing the video sharing app unless TikTok splits from its majority Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance.

Beijing has warned the US that a TikTok ban would amount to “bullying”.

The legislation is the biggest threat yet to the video-sharing app, and at home, opposition cyber security spokesman James Paterson said Australia couldn’t risk being left behind.

The US is a step closer to banning users from accessing TikTok unless the app splits from its Chinese-owned parent company. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Tim Pascoe

The app is already banned from government devices, and the Prime Minister on Thursday morning said Australia had “no plans” beyond that.

“I think you’ve got to be pretty cautious. You’ve always got to have national security concerns front and centre, but you also need to acknowledge that for a whole lot of people, this provides a way of them communicating,” Mr Albanese said.

“We haven’t got advice at this stage to do that (ban TikTok). We don’t use TikTok on government phones, and that is an appropriate measure that we’re putting in place.”

He said the government continued to take security advice but would make its own decisions.

“You need to have an argument for it, rather than automatically just ban things,” he told ABC Radio.

“We’ll take security advice on it.

“TikTok isn’t compulsory by the way.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Mr Albanese “needs to show leadership here” and act.

“So far the Prime Minister hasn’t done that. And I think the Prime Minister, particularly at a time like this, doesn’t need to be weak. He needs to be strong and show the leadership that’s required to keep Australian kids safe online,” Mr Dutton said.

“If he’s got advice from the agencies, which I believe he has, that the information has been hoovered up and young people don’t have a safe presence online, it’s up to the prime minister of that country to respond in the appropriate way, and that’s what I would expect him to do.”

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA - NCA NewsWire Photos - 11 MARCH, 2024: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attends the Tasmanian Labor Campaign Launch with Tasmanian Labor leader Rebecca White ahead of the State Election. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Rob Burnett
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government hadn’t received any advice on a national TikTok ban. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Rob Burnett

The legislation in the US still has to pass the Senate, but President Joe Biden said he was prepared to sign the Bill into law if both houses of Congress gave it the green light.

Senator Paterson said Australia could not afford to be “left behind”, and the government should have “already sent drafting instructions” to the Home Affairs department so it could prepare “equivalent legislation” for Australia.

“What this legislation does is it severs the relationship between TikTok and its Chinese company ByteDance and therefore breaks the relationship, the nexus, between the Chinese Communist Party and what has become the most dominant source of news and information in the world for young people,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

“They have a pathway here to remain active in the United States, just as if we passed this legislation, they’d have a pathway to remain active in Australia.

“The ball is in TikTok’s court here … either they operate rationally like any business would and they sell this highly profitable business at an enormously high price and do very well out of it, or they choose to allow their company to be banned because they disregard the law of the United States and fail to comply with it.”

In a statement, TikTok labelled the House vote as a “secret process” that had been jammed through.

“We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents, and realize (sic) the impact on the economy, seven million small businesses, and the 170 million Americans who use our service,” TikTok said in a statement.