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Rome mulls TikTok ban for civil servants (and Salvini opposes it)

Salvini TikTok
In the wake of similar decisions by Washington and Brussels, the Italian government is weighing whether to prohibit public administration employees from installing the Chinese app. But the deputy PM and League leader railed against “censorship” on a TikTok livestream

Ticking clock for TikTok. Over the past weeks, the United States government, the European Commission and Canadian authorities requested that employees promptly uninstall the popular Chinese social media app. Now, Rome is considering whether to follow in those tracks.

  • Speaking to Repubblica, Public Administration Minister Paolo Zangrillo said that a TikTok ban on both work and personal devices is among the options the government is considering. He also assured the decision would arrive rapidly.

COPASIR’s lens. Parliament’s Intelligence Committee, the opposition-controlled body exerting oversight over intelligence services, is dealing with the dossier. Earlier this year, in the wake of the US initiatives, it launched a fact-finding investigation into TikTok. Meanwhile, Italian Undersecretary Alessio Butti (who oversees the government’s digital innovation strategy) met with representatives from ByteDance’s Italian branch to debate the crucial issue of user data transfer.

  • ByteDance, the company behind the app, has always denied having any dealings with the Beijing government. However, the US security community does not agree.
  • Notably, Chinese law allows the Communist Party to access any company’s data – and are taking steps to mitigate national security risk, including ceding data control to a US-based company.

Matteo Salvini weighs in. The Infrastructure Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, who’s also the leader of the League (and a regular TikTok user), immediately entered the public debate by broadcasting his doubts. “This is a matter that involves security and democracy.

  • “Censoring, banning, gagging TikTok? In Brussels, they are already thinking about it. I am always, and in any case, in favour of freedom of thought, speech and expression and against all censorship. Control, yes; oversight, yes; but I never like censorship.”
  • I am perplexed and against any kind of censorship; in a liberal society, one must think hard before arriving at radical bans. What do you think?” he asked through social media channels, including, naturally, through a TikTok video.

ByteDance’s stance. “The data of Italian users, as well as European ones, is not stored in China but in the US and Singapore, and soon within the EU in the Irish data centre,” the company told us. “As has been publicly stated several times, the Chinese government has never asked for access to our users’ data, and if it had to, we would not share it. Our data governance strategy – in compliance with the GDPR – is based on limiting access to data as much as possible, minimising its flow outside Europe, and respecting strict security protocols. As with the European Commission’s decision, we would like to underline our full willingness to clarify the Italian government’s doubts, hoping for a confrontation dictated by certain and transparent rules and processes.”

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