Just a week after the Australian government banned the use of TikTok on all government devices, broadcaster Sky News Australia, said it is boycotting TikTok also over national security fears.
The media outlet has also called on other media organizations globally to reassess their relationship with what Sky News described as a “Beijing-controlled platform.”
Sky News digital editor Jack Houghton, in an article on Monday (April 10), said “the risks are far too great for any serious news publisher to ignore and the gains are negligible at best.”
The news outlet’s TikTok account, which had 65,000 followers and millions of views, has already been taken down. Sky News said it is adopting “a consistent approach to security which protects our journalists and audiences.”
“If the platform is such high a risk of espionage that corporate phones must be purged, then morally, how can newsrooms justify emboldening that ecosystem with content and drawing more viewers to the service?”
Jack Houghton, Sky News Australia
Houghton further claimed that “TikTok is a spy network masquerading as a social media platform”, and also claimed that the app is collecting the data of journalists, users and politicians.
Sky News is the first major publisher in Australia to exit the app. Denmark’s public service broadcaster in March advised its staff to delete the app from their work phones following a review by the country’s Center for Cyber Security.
“Journalists needing access to the app for research must now ask for permission to use what staff are calling special “TikTok phones”. [It’s] the first news organization to issue such advice,” British broadcaster BBC quoted the Danish broadcaster as saying.
In the UK, the BBC told its own staff to delete TikTok on government-issued devices over national security risks.
“We don’t recommend installing TikTok on a BBC corporate device unless there is a justified business reason. If you do not need TikTok for business reasons, TikTok should be deleted,” BBC said in a guidance to staff on March 19, The Guardian reported.
However, Sky News’ Houghton said BBC continues to have a presence on TikTok, operating an account with more than 4 million followers.
“If the platform is such high a risk of espionage that corporate phones must be purged, then morally, how can newsrooms justify emboldening that ecosystem with content and drawing more viewers to the service?” said Sky News’ Houghton.
Houghton added that there is only little to gain from the news outlet’s large viewership on TikTok, saying some media outlet’s decision to keep their accounts on TikTok “proves the hunger for reaching new demographics has perverted editorial strategies in newsrooms globally.”
The Sky News editor described TikTok as a “black hole” that drains newsrooms of rare resourcing and offers zero financial gain in return. Houghton said money was not a consideration in Sky News’ decision to leave TikTok, but the editor noted that TikTok is the only developed social media platform that does not have a proper commercialization strategy for content creators.
“TikTok is purely a vanity exercise in making media organizations think arbitrary viewership figures are important even when they cannot be monetized in any meaningful way.
“It is a stark difference to how YouTube conducts itself, creating entire professions for individual creators and engaging in revenue share agreements with media organizations,” Houghton said.
Sky News, however, is not forcing staff to delete the app from personal devices.
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