New Zealand will ban TikTok on all devices with access to its parliament by the end of this month, becoming the latest country to impose an official ban on the popular social media platform, which is owned by a Beijing-based tech conglomerate.
Led by the United States, an increasing number of Western countries are imposing restrictions on using TikTok on government devices, citing national security concerns.
Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, chief executive of New Zealand’s Parliamentary Service, said in a statement on Friday that the risk of keeping the video-sharing app “unacceptable.”
“This decision was made based on our experts’ analysis and after discussions with our government and international counterparts,” he wrote.
“Following the advice of our cybersecurity experts, the Parliamentary Service has informed members and staff that the TikTok app will be removed from all devices accessing the parliamentary network,” it added.
But those who need the application to “fulfill their democratic duties” could get exemptions, he said.
In an email to lawmakers seen by CNN, Gonzalez-Montero told lawmakers the app would be removed from their company devices on March 31, after which they would no longer be able to download it.
He also directed lawmakers to uninstall the app from their devices, adding that failure to comply could result in them being unable to access parliament’s network.
“I – and IPAC as a whole – have had serious privacy concerns for some time,” he said, adding that TikTok’s response to previous data security requests was “unsatisfactory.”
IPAC is a cross-border group formed by lawmakers from democracies focusing on relations with China and frequently criticizing Beijing’s leadership.
New Zealand’s decision comes amid similar actions taken by its western allies, despite the country’s more cautious approach in dealing with Beijing, partly because it is a major trading partner.
The United States, United Kingdom, and Canada ordered the app removed from all government phones, citing cybersecurity concerns.
The three countries are part of the so-called Five Eyes Alliance, which works together to collect and share information. Australia and New Zealand form five.
The Chinese video-sharing app has also been banned in all three main European Union government agencies.
TikTok has become one of the world’s most successful social media platforms and is very popular among young people.
This short video-sharing app has over 100 million users in the US alone.
New Zealand’s latest move comes just hours after TikTok acknowledged that the Biden government had threatened to ban its activities nationwide unless its Chinese owners agreed to relinquish their stake in the social media platform.
US officials have raised concerns that the Chinese government could use its national security laws to pressure TikTok or its parent company ByteDance to provide private information to American TikTok users, which could benefit Chinese intelligence operations or influence campaigns.
China accused the United States of “unreasonably suppressing” TikTok and “spreading false information” about data security.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told the US Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month that he is concerned the Chinese government could use TikTok to sway public opinion if China invades Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims sovereignty, though has never ruled Taiwan.
TikTok has repeatedly denied posing a security risk and has agreed to work with regulators to address any concerns.