Forty-five federal government MPs still have TikTok accounts more than a month after it was banned over fears of Chinese oversight.
About 22 are Labor MPs and six are federal cabinet ministers, including Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, Employment Minister Tony Burke and Industry Minister Ed Husic.
The Liberals and Greens each have eight and six independent MPs have the beleaguered social media app from Chinese company ByteDance.
Attorney General Mark Dreyfus banned it from government agencies on May 3, following similar bans in the United States and Britain.
Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek defended having a TikTok account, but said she followed security advice and that neither she nor her staff have it on any device.
Independents Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson both use TikTok to spread their posts
Since the ban was announced, 14 federal government MPs have posted on TikTok, WA Today reported.
The independents still on TikTok are Kylea Tink, Bob Katter, and Pauline Hanson, who have posted five times since the announcement.
Ms. Hanson mainly uses the platform to distribute her South Park-style cartoon, in which she mocks leading politicians from all sides.
The MPs and their staff have circumvented the ban by using the app on personal phones and laptops.
The ban only applies to devices issued by Commonwealth ministries and agencies.
Less than a week after the ban, Ms Plibersek uploaded a video to her personal account showing a scene of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese briefly seen in his office.
Ms Plibersek defended her use of TikTok but said she followed security advice and neither she nor her staff have it on any device.
“I think it’s always important to embrace effective ways to talk to different audiences about the work our government does,” she said.
Labor backbencher Julian Hill, who is Australia’s most popular politician on the platform with 146,000 followers and 2.3 million likes, said he uses the platform because that’s how millions of Aussies communicate.
“It’s important that elected representatives meet the community wherever they are – whether that’s in stores, at the train station, on the football field, at schools, senior clubs, the RSL or online,” said Hill.
The Greens’ digital spokesman, David Shoebridge, claimed the government was guilty of “dangerous naivety” in thinking that a ban on government devices was enough.
Lately, Hanson has mostly been using TikTok to distribute her South Park-style cartoon, in which she mocks leading politicians from all sides
The Greens’ digital spokesperson David Shoebridge claimed the government was guilty of ‘dangerous naivety’ with its focus on TikTok
He said Australia is in the throes of a privacy and data security crisis and it is a mistake to focus so much on just one app.
Mr Shoebridge claimed that personal information is being ‘exploited’ by any company that can get their hands on it.
Hundreds of apps for everything from budgeting to fertility and even games for kids collect sensitive personal information about users and sometimes share it with other companies.
Some 13 countries have imposed sanctions on TikTok, although only Afghanistan and Iran have a total ban.
New Zealand banned the app on devices with access to the country’s parliamentary network over cybersecurity concerns.
Experts fear that once downloaded, the app could access sensitive information on a device.
There are also claims that ByteDance collects more user data than other social media companies.
ByteDance denies it exercises any sort of oversight, saying the bans are based on “misinformation.”
Public warnings about Chinese surveillance or banning the app on government devices are unlikely to fatally hurt TikTok.
Kylea Tink is one of six independents still on TikTok
It had 7.38 million users in Australia last year, making it the most downloaded mobile entertainment app in Australia.
Social media commentators expect the number of TikTok users to continue to grow at a rate of 5-10 percent each year.
In the US, TikTok has 150 million active users (the most of any country) and has been downloaded over 210 million times.
According to Adweek, 39.2 million Americans over the age of 18 used TikTok in March 2023 — a 300 percent increase in April 2022.