11 April 2023

Are governments taking the 'half-pregnant' approach to TikTok?

| Ross Solly
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Mark Parton on TikTok

Prolific TikTokker Mark Parton took to TikTok to oppose the proposed ban. Image: Mark Parton TikTok.

There’s an old saying I think is still okay to quote: you can’t be half pregnant.

When it comes to banning TikTok on government devices, governments have definitely gone for the half-pregnant approach.

If the point is to thwart the Chinese from infiltrating our data and top-level secrets, then the ban seems pretty pointless, especially here in the ACT.

Regular readers of my column would know that if the world were to announce a ban on all social media apps tomorrow, I would be the first person doing cartwheels down Northbourne Avenue. I know I am old and behind the times, but nothing will change my view that social media is the devil in disguise.

That is not why the Feds have banned TikTok, though. It’s all about spying.

READ ALSO The clock is ticking for TikTok as government moves to ban it

The ACT Government agreed to follow the lead of the Federal Government and ban anyone in the ACT who has a government-provided device from downloading TikTok on said device. Australia has been a bit slow to the party, given the US, UK and much of Europe have already gone down this path.

Some of Canberra’s MLAs are prolific TikTokkers. My younger colleagues tell me Mark Parton, Johnathan Davis and Michael Pettersson not only post often but are considered by those in the know to be pretty good at it.

(The few times I have looked at TikTok, it seems to mostly be made up of people dancing and pranking. Messrs Parton, Davis and Pettersson, I understand, don’t do any of that nonsense.)

Here’s where the half-pregnant analogy comes in. The ACT Government ban applies to all government-issued devices but not to private devices that might be used to access government documents.

Davis and Pettersson confirmed this week they do not have government-issued mobile phones. They use their private devices for TikTok but also use those same devices to access government files and documents.

So what is the point of the ban? If we are to believe what we are being told, mainly by the US Government, the Chinese are very clever in using TikTok to spy on us. So it’s fair to assume the Chinese Government will be just as happy to use TikTok on the MLAs’ private devices to have a good old sniff around in our government affairs.

READ ALSO As a TikTok addict, am I choosing entertainment over data security?

TikTok may well be the Chinese Government’s not-so-secret way of infiltrating state secrets around the world but there are other reasons I’d be pretty happy to see it gone forever.

The UK’s data watchdog recently fined TikTok about £12.7 million for allowing more than a million UK children under 13 to use the platform. It turns out TikTok turned a blind eye to the young kids sharing videos, despite concerns raised internally.

The watchdog said TikTok may have used the kids’ data to track and profile them. I can’t imagine any parent who would not be alarmed by this.

I suggested to some of my young colleagues the world would be a better place without TikTok. It was like I asked them to give up a lung.

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GrumpyGrandpa8:49 pm 12 Apr 23

Mr Parton has a point.
It’s pointless banning Tik Tok on ACT Government phones and allow Messrs Davis and Pettersson to assess it on their personal phones; the same phones they use to access government files!

The Tik Tok issue aside, if MLAs are using personal phones for Government business, Mr Barr needs to stop that practice. There needs to be accountability.

If Tik Tok is seen as a security issue for Governments around the world, then maybe everyone should read between the lines and stop using the platform!

@Grumpy Grandpa
“If Tik Tok is seen as a security issue for Governments around the world, then maybe everyone should read between the lines and stop using the platform”
I think that is exactly the point, GG. While governments don’t want to mandate private citizens should not use Tik Tok, it should surely be a huge red flag, for those who value the privacy of their personal data, to reconsider their use and maybe remove the app.

GrumpyGrandpa3:22 pm 13 Apr 23

Hi JustSaying,
Agree. In a free society, the Government makes recommendations and we make our own decisions. I’m perfectly ok with that.

The issue I have is not that the MLAs are using Tik Tok on their personal phones, it’s that they are using the same phone to access Government records!
If MLAs used a Government phone for Government work and only used Tik Tok on their personal phone, there would be no issues.

Oh ok, my bad – I thought (because of your reference to ‘everyone’) you were referring to private citizens.
Absolutely agree 100% with your second para. In fact I’d go further and say MLAs should be banned from using their personal phones for any parliamentary work – especially accessing Government records – Tik Tok installed or not!

HiddenDragon7:41 pm 12 Apr 23

“The ACT Government ban applies to all government-issued devices but not to private devices that might be used to access government documents.”

This could be an irresistible honeypot for the Beijing spymasters if they’re looking for ideas about how to mismanage a smallish provincial city.

If they really wanted to get creative, they could offer (perhaps through Alibaba) the benighted citizens of the Monaro Plains mushroom patch the opportunity to buy unredacted copies of ACT government documents – which would be both subversive and refreshingly democratic.

Watching Mark Parton wind up and take the mickey out of conspiracy theory cookers on TikTok is a treat I’d like to see continue.

I think you mean ‘conspiracy cuckoos’ – nevertheless, I’m sure Parton’s take on them is funny. Even funnier was watching them get interviewed on the various news channels during the ‘millions of people protest’. Better than a front seat at the Comedy Festival.

Capital Retro7:49 am 12 Apr 23

I saw a Tik Tok video last week featuring Albanese, Plibersek and other Federal Labor politicians “finding Easter eggs” in Parliament house.

It’s OK by me if you mock resident ACT Liberal court jester Mark Parton anytime but please include all sides of politics in cases like this.

@Capital Retro
Did you read the article, CR? How is it mocking of Parton? Perhaps you object to the screen shot of one of Parton’s own TikTok posts? Wow – and the woke left are said to be easily offended!

Capital Retro9:26 am 12 Apr 23

Anyone who claims to be “pretty good at using Tik Tok” needs to be mocked as do people who appear to support them.

Did you see the other Tik Tok post I referred to?

@Capital Retro
No, CR, I have better things to do than occupy my time with asinine pastimes, such as watching Tik Tok videos.

Capital Retro5:59 pm 12 Apr 23

“No” would have been sufficient.

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