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Australia Bans TikTok From Government Devices Amid Security Concerns

SYDNEY—Australia said it will ban TikTok on all government-issued digital devices, following the U.S. and other intelligence-sharing allies in response to concerns about data security on the app.

The decision announced by Australia’s attorney general means all members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance have restricted government access to the video-sharing app through full or partial bans. Lawmakers worry that the Chinese government could force TikTok parent ByteDance Ltd. to hand over user data, or to influence the videos they view.

The U.S. gave government agencies 30 days from the start of March to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems. Canada and the U.K. have enacted similar prohibitions in recent weeks, while New Zealand banned it from devices linked to its Parliament.

Australia’s ban, which covers all devices issued by federal government departments and agencies, came on the advice of the intelligence and security agencies, Attorney General

Mark Dreyfus

said. Previously it was left to individual departments to decide whether their employees could install the app.

“The direction will come into effect as soon as practicable,” Mr. Dreyfus said.

The U.S. federal government and most state governments—as well as the European Union—have barred government employees from using TikTok on work devices.

TikTok said that Australia’s decision was driven by politics and that the government hadn’t responded to its offers of what it called constructive engagement.

“There is no evidence to suggest that TikTok is in any way a security risk to Australians and [it] should not be treated differently to other social-media platforms,” said

Lee Hunter,

TikTok’s Australia and New Zealand general manager.

TikTok has said U.K., Australian and New Zealand user data is stored in the U.S. and Singapore, and access to it is tightly controlled. The company has also said no user data have been shared with the Chinese government and that it wouldn’t provide the data to Beijing if it were asked to do so.

In 2022, TikTok was the most downloaded app in the world, including in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand, according to analytics company AppMagic. It was No. 2 in Australia, behind the official app that lets people access government services, AppMagic said.

Some Australian lawmakers argue that a governmentwide ban should be a first step in a broader review of TikTok in the country.

James Paterson,

an upper-house lawmaker who holds the cybersecurity portfolio for the opposition Liberal party, said the government needs to develop policies and potentially regulations that protect ordinary Australians who use the app.

“It’s one thing to get it off government devices, but all those private citizens deserve protection too, particularly because they’re exposed to a risk of foreign interference in our democracy by using the app.” Mr. Paterson said in a radio interview on Tuesday.

Without protections in place, it would be easy for the Chinese government to direct TikTok to suppress content that doesn’t support its narrative, or elevate content that does, he said.

In the U.S., the Biden administration recently demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their stakes or face a possible ban. Beijing said it would fight any U.S. attempt to force such a sale.

For Australia, banning TikTok on government devices risks angering Beijing just as diplomatic relations begin to heal after a prolonged standoff.

Ties were strained in 2018 when a previous center-right government banned China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and

ZTE Corp.

from participating in the rollout of 5G telecommunications infrastructure, citing national security. Months earlier American officials had raised concerns about Huawei with

Malcolm Turnbull,

who was then Australia’s prime minister.

Write to Stuart Condie at [email protected]

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