Australian broadcaster Sky News has left TikTok because of security concerns that have led several Western governments to ban the video app on devices used by officials.
In an article published on the Sky News Australia website Monday, digital editor Jack Houghton said the security risks posed by the “Beijing-controlled platform” were “too great for any serious news publisher.”
“TikTok is a spy network masquerading as a social media platform which has been proven to illegally pilfer the data of journalists, public citizens and politicians,” Houghton wrote.
“We urge [media organizations] to consider this dilemma and stop trading security and integrity for a few worthless views,” he added.
In a statement to CNN, Lee Hunter, General Manager of Operations for TikTok in Australia and New Zealand, said he respects the broadcaster’s right to make decisions to best serve its audience, but rejected the “allegations and insinuations” made in the Sky News Australia article.
“[They] are completely false and we reject them in the strongest possible terms,” he said.
Experts say the security fears behind the recent government bans, while serious, currently appear to reflect only the potential for TikTok to be used for foreign intelligence, not that it has been. There is still no public evidence the Chinese government has actually spied on people through TikTok.
Last year, TikTok’s owner ByteDance admitted that four employees had improperly accessed personal data of two journalists from the Financial Times and BuzzFeed.
ByteDance said the relevant staff were investigating potential information leaks, and they were fired for misusing their authority to access TikTok user data.
Separately, broader concerns have been raised by experts worldwide that TikTok presents a security risk due to the vast troves of data it collects on millions of users, and its vulnerability to potential interference from the Chinese government, which wields considerable influence over businesses in its jurisdiction.
The United States and other Western nations have banned the app on government devices, with the Biden administration threatening to go further by imposing a broader ban unless TikTok’s Chinese owners sell their stakes in the company. A blanket ban would deny 150 million US users access to the platform.
TikTok has repeatedly denied it has links to Beijing, and the company’s