Amazon bans and unbans TikTok for employees in the same day

Amazon banned and then unbanned the TikTok video-sharing app from employee mobile devices, calling the move a mistake on Friday. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 July 2020

Amazon bans and unbans TikTok for employees in the same day

  • One person familiar with the matter said that senior Amazon executives were unaware of the request to delete TikTok from employee devices
  • The ban was reversed after TikTok and Amazon representatives discussed the matter

DUBAI: In the span of a few hours on Friday, Amazon banned and then unbanned the TikTok video-sharing app from employee mobile devices, calling the move a mistake.
The news generated widespread attention for the Chinese-owned social media platform, coming in the same week that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government.
It was not immediately clear what led to the initial ban by Amazon. One person familiar with the matter said that senior Amazon executives were unaware of the request to delete TikTok from employee devices. The ban was reversed after TikTok and Amazon representatives discussed the matter, according to an email sent to TikTok employees.
Earlier this week, Wells Fargo sent a note to employees who had installed TikTok on company-owned mobile devices telling them to remove the app immediately.
“Due to concerns about TikTok’s privacy and security controls and practices, and because corporate-owned devices should be used for company business only, we have directed those employees to remove the app from their devices,” Wells Fargo said in a statement.
“We have not been contacted by Wells Fargo, but as with any organization that has concerns, we are open to engaging with them constructively and letting them know about the actions we have taken to protect data security for our users,” a TikTok spokesman told Reuters.
The attention underscores the hotseat that TikTok’s owner, China-based ByteDance, has found itself in over recent days.
The Chinese ownership of TikTok, among the fastest growing digital platforms ever, has come under heavy scrutiny on issues including their handling of user data. India banned TikTok and other Chinese apps in June.
The company has said that user data is stored in the US with a backup copy in Singapore. One person familiar with the matter said that TikTok’s user data is primarily stored in the Google Cloud in its Virginia-based data center.
TikTok declined to comment. Google could not immediately be reached for comment.
That did not stop Pompeo from floating a possible ban of TikTok in the US. Asked if Americans should download it, he told Fox News: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
On Friday, the Republican National Committee in the US asked its members via email not to download TikTok. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday also reiterated its guidance from December to stop downloading the app.
A person familiar with the matter said that the DNC has been advising campaign staff for months not to use TikTok on their personal devices and to use a separate phone and account if they use the platform for campaign work because of the amount of data it tracks. A spokesman for the DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two Republican senators in March introduced a bill aimed at banning federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued phones, citing national security concerns around the collection and sharing of data on US users with China’s government.
Last year the US Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices, saying that the app represented a “cybersecurity threat.”
Last November, the US government launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of US social media app Musical.ly, Reuters reported last year.
On July 7, TikTok said that it would stop operations in Hong Kong, joining other social media companies in warily eyeing ramifications of a sweeping national security law that took effect the previous week.
The social media companies say that they are assessing implications of the security law, which prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. In the communist-ruled mainland, the foreign social media platforms are blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.”
To address concerns over its Chinese ownership, ByteDance has taken steps to shift its center of power away from China, Reuters previously reported. It is also looking to make changes to TikTok’s corporate structure for the same reasons, a company spokesperson said this week.
However, the concerns still persist. Last month, when Apple released to developers a test version of its iOS operating system with new privacy features, developers showed images of TikTok’s app triggering notifications that it was copying data from users’ clipboards, where data is temporarily stored while copying and pasting from one app to another.
TikTok said that the notifications were caused by an anti-spam feature but that it would end the practice.
Apple has not restricted TikTok use by employees, one of them said.
Some US semiconductor companies have been reluctant to consider a ban on TikTok because ByteDance is a customer, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some firms providing security services to big companies have added TikTok to their lists of banned apps on managed devices.


Lebanese news agency boycotts politicians’ press conferences, including Hezbollah’s Nasrallah

Updated 07 August 2020

Lebanese news agency boycotts politicians’ press conferences, including Hezbollah’s Nasrallah

  • The Lebanese news agency LBCI has said it will no longer provide coverage of any politician’s press conference, including Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah
  • “Let your accomplishments speak for you and don’t distract people with storytelling,” an LBCI presenter said

LONDON: The Lebanese news agency LBCI has said it will no longer provide coverage of any politician’s press conference, including Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, following Tuesday’s massive explosions.

“The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International decided that what comes after Aug. 4 is not like what came before,” a presenter announced on live television on Friday.

“Because after the earthquake is not the same as before, because your (Lebanese government) neglect and failure is one of the main reasons for what we have come to ... because after Aug. 4, we need actions and not words, achievements and not speeches.

“Let your accomplishments speak for you and don’t distract people with storytelling,” she said.

“Finally, we tell people: While you are waiting for the speeches of your leaders, there are mothers who are waiting for the return of their children from the rubble — the priority is for them, not for you.”

Many Lebanese welcomed LBCI’s announcement, with several taking to social media to praise the move — especially given that Nasrallah spoke at a press conference at 5:30 p.m. local time, his first address since the blasts.

“Not only Nasrallah, but all speeches, by all parties. They are nothing more than propaganda. They own their own propaganda bullhorns, so let them use those to address their sheep, rather than block the airwaves for the rest of us,” Raghda Azad, a policy adviser, told Arab News.

“Not that LBC is a model or anything, but all television outlets should stop unquestioning and uncritical reports of so-called leaders,” she added.

However, some doubt the move will not be followed by other stations.

“I think it would be great if they all do. But I think because many people care what he says, stations feel like they should oblige,” Aya Chamseddine, a Beirut-based researcher, told Arab News.

“Generally, people tend to — even if they loathe him — root themselves in front of TVs to watch and listen. His speeches are theatrics above all,” she said. “His narrative will be predictable. He will say they know more than anyone what it means to lose people. He’ll be insulting.”

A Lebanese media expert, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, disagrees with the move.

“CNN, even when it hates (US President) Trump, carries his speeches. Nasrallah is the biggest political player in the region; when he speaks people would want to listen because of his effect on politics and our daily lives,” he said.

“The issue is analyzing what he says later, and tearing it apart when it is false or stupid, like CNN does after every Trump speech or statement.”

The boycott comes three days after Beirut was rocked by two blasts when 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate confiscated six years ago and left in a port storage hangar exploded.

The massive explosions left at least 140 people dead, over 5,000 injured and more than 300,000 homeless. Many say that government corruption and negligence are behind the explosion.