In recent years, social media platforms have become an integral part of people’s lives, transforming the way individuals interact and share information. However, the increasing influence of these platforms has also raised concerns regarding national security, especially when it comes to foreign interference. The Australian government has recently identified two popular applications, TikTok and WeChat, as potential threats to the country’s security, prompting an in-depth investigation by a dedicated committee.
A committee examining the use of social media for foreign interference in Australia has released its comprehensive findings, raising alarming red flags about TikTok and WeChat. According to the report, these Chinese-owned platforms could be the nation’s most significant national security threat, given their potential vulnerability to foreign control.
The report encompasses 17 recommendations aimed at bolstering national security and ensuring transparency in social media operations across the country. These recommendations include the introduction of new regulations to enforce transparency requirements, with the possibility of banning platforms that fail to comply.
The report highlights foreign interference as Australia’s “principal national security threat.” The emergence of disruptive technologies, notably artificial intelligence, has further complicated the ability to safeguard the country’s security, making it more vulnerable to external influences.
The parent companies of TikTok and WeChat, ByteDance and Tencent, respectively, are headquartered in China, raising concerns about their potential ties to the Chinese government and intelligence agencies.
One of the major worries regarding TikTok is that China-based employees might access Australian user data without adequate disclosure. Furthermore, the report indicates that these employees can manipulate content algorithms, potentially affecting the information shared and viewed on the platform.
In response to the security concerns, the Australian government has already banned TikTok on government devices. The fear is that the app’s security might be compromised, and it could be exploited for foreign interference, particularly by China.
The committee’s recommendations extend beyond TikTok, proposing to ban WeChat on government devices as well. It cites similar data security and foreign interference risks posed by the popular messaging app.
The report suggests that the ban on TikTok’s usage on government devices should also extend to contractors involved in government projects. This recommendation implicates prominent consulting firms like Ernst and Young, PwC, and Deloitte, as they could fall under the ban’s umbrella.
The findings of the committee have brought to light the pressing issue of social media’s role in national security threats. With TikTok and WeChat identified as potential hazards, the Australian government must tread carefully to safeguard its interests and protect its citizens’ privacy. The recommendations put forward by the committee aim to address these concerns, advocating for greater transparency and measures to counter foreign interference. As Australia grapples with emerging technologies and their implications, the need for stringent regulatory measures has never been more critical. Balancing innovation and security will remain a complex task as the nation continues to navigate the evolving landscape of social media and its impact on national security.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Coverpage’s editorial stance