Banning TikTok would deal a heavy blow to Canberra: analysts

TikTok. Photo: VCG

Chinese video-sharing platform TikTok reportedly told an Australian government committee that it will allow officials to review its algorithm and test its source code.

Analysts warned that Canberra should maintain diplomatic independency from Washington on its attitude toward TikTok and not act like the US‘ attack dog. The subsequent consequences following a potential ban of TikTok, including dwindling exports to China, could deal a heavy blow to Australia‘s already sagging economy.

On Friday‘s hearing before the Select Committee on Foreign Interference, TikTok‘s Australian executive said the computer instructions that guide content presented to TikTok users would be made more widely available for inspection, Reuters reported. 

The report also quoted TikTok‘s written submission to the committee as saying that qualified government officials could review its algorithm and test its source code at a transparency and accountability center in Los Angeles in the US while another is built in Washington, or through virtual tours of the centers.

The Australia government in August ruled that TikTok does not pose any so-called “national security” concerns and opted against a ban, Aljazeera reported. Friday‘s hearing aimed to examine the claims of political interference through the social media platform.

“The firm is a social media platform that does not involve military or security concerns. But clearly it has become a victim of the US‘ political assault on China. Australia has maybe been asked to join the ‘robbery,‘” Yu Lei, a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries at Liaocheng University, told the Global Times on Saturday. 

The White House has been pushing a “mafia-style” forced sale of TikTok to US companies over national security concerns.  

TikTok confirmed with the Global Times earlier that it had reached a deal with Oracle and WalMart that will allow ByteDance — the parent company of TikTok — to own 80 percent of the new company in the US. It is not clear how the deal will go ahead as conflicting statements from US firms and US President Donald Trump complicate the situation.

Liu Chang, an expert at the China Electronics Standardization Institute who follows the TikTok case closely, told the Global Times on Saturday that Chinese companies, including TikTok, should abandon the “illusion” that certain countries will abide by international business rules, stop making compromises and rather resort to long-term solutions.

Yu said that it is highly likely that Australia‘s attitude on TikTok hinges on that of the US. But he warned that Canberra could pay a hefty price for ruling in favor of a ban on TikTok.

 “Chinese companies could cut their agricultural and iron ore imports from Australia. Chinese students could apply for non-Australian universities. The Australian economy will suffer more and more over souring ties with the world‘s second-largest economy as time passes,” Yu said.

Analysts also stressed that that Chinese government will not “sit idle” on the matter, and will take measures to actively protect the legal rights of Chinese firms.  

A ban on TikTok in US app store is set to come into effect on Sunday (US time) after a one week postponement. A federal judge in Washington scheduled a Sunday morning hearing on TikTok‘s request to halt the ban, hours before it is set to go into effect, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Global Times

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