Roughly five hours after an internal email went out Friday to Amazon employees telling them to delete the popular video app TikTok from their phones, the online retailing giant appeared to backtrack, calling the ban a mistake.
“This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error,” Amazon emailed reporters just before 5 p.m. Eastern time. “There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.”
Company spokeswoman Jaci Anderson declined to answer questions about what caused the confounding turnaround or error.
The initial internal email, which was disseminated widely online, told employees to delete TikTok, a video app increasingly popular with young people but also the focus of intensifying national-security and geopolitical concerns because of its Chinese ownership. The email cited the app’s “security risks.”
An Amazon employee who confirmed receipt of the initial email but was not authorized to speak publicly had not seen a retraction at the time of Amazon’s backtrack.
Amazon is the second-largest U.S. private employer after Walmart. Moving against TikTok could have escalated pressure on the app in a big way, particularly if other companies did the same. The U.S. military already bans TikTok on employee phones and the company is subject to a national-security review of its merger history.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that the government was “certainly looking” at banning the app, setting off confused and irritated posts as well as jokes by TikTok users.
Chinese internet company ByteDance owns TikTok, which is designed for users outside of China; it also makes a Chinese version called Douyin. Like YouTube, TikTok relies on its users for the videos that populate its app. It has a reputation for fun, goofy videos and is popular with young people, including millions of Americans.
But critics have cited concerns, including the possibility of TikTok censoring videos, such as those critical of the Chinese government, sharing user data with Chinese officials, and violating kids’ privacy. TikTok has said it doesn’t censor videos based on topics sensitive to China and it would not give the Chinese government access to U.S. user data even if asked.
TikTok said earlier in the day that Amazon did not notify it before sending the initial email around midday Eastern time Friday. That email read, “The TikTok app is no longer permitted on mobile devices that access Amazon email.” To retain mobile access to company email, employees had to delete the TikTok app by the end of the day.
“We still do not understand their concerns,” TikTok said at the time, adding that the company would welcome a dialogue to address Amazon’s issues. A TikTok spokeswoman declined to comment further Friday evening.
TikTok has been trying to appease critics in the U.S. and distance itself from its Chinese roots, but finds itself caught in an increasingly sticky geopolitical web.
It recently named a new CEO, former Disney executive Kevin Mayer, a move experts said could help it navigate U.S. regulators. And it is stopping operations in Hong Kong because of a new Chinese national security law that led Facebook, Google and Twitter to also stop providing user data to Hong Kong authorities.
Pompeo said the U.S. government remains concerned about TikTok and referred to the administration’s crackdown on Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE. Washington has tried to convince allies to root Huawei out of telecom networks with mixed success. President Donald Trump has also said he is willing to use Huawei as a bargaining chip in trade talks. Huawei has denied that it enables spying by the Chinese government.
A U.S. national-security agency has been reviewing ByteDance’s purchase of TikTok’s precursor, Musical.ly. Meanwhile, privacy groups say TikTok has been violating children’s privacy, even after the Federal Trade Commission fined the company in 2019 for collecting personal information from children without their parents’ consent. Concerns aren’t limited to the U.S. India this month banned dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok, citing privacy concerns, amid tensions between the countries.
Amazon may have been concerned about a Chinese-owned app’s access to employee data because the U.S. government says China regularly steals U.S. intellectual property, said Susan Ariel Aaronson, a professor at George Washington University and a data governance and national-security expert.
Part of Amazon’s motivation with the ban, now apparently reversed, may also have been political, Aaronson said, since Amazon “doesn’t want to alienate the Trump administration.”
Seattle-based Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, are frequent targets of Trump. Bezos personally owns The Washington Post, which Trump has called “fake news.” Last year, Amazon sued the U.S. government, saying that Trump’s “personal vendetta” against Amazon, Bezos and the Post led it to lose a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon to rival Microsoft. Meanwhile, federal regulators as well as Congress are pursuing antitrust investigations at Amazon as well as other tech giants.
MANCHESTER: Former Europa League winners Manchester United booked a quarter-final spot in the tournament after their second-string side laboured to a 2-1 home win over LASK Linz on Wednesday to seal a 7-1 aggregate rout of the Austrian side. United's reward is a clash with FC Copenhagen in Read More...
KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. As of today, 412,953 tests through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method have been carried out, Read More...
DAMAULI: As many as 172 persons earlier diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, admitted at various healthcare facilities across Tanahun district, have been discharged following recovery, on Wednesday. According to the District Health Office, 17 females and 155 males were discharged today upon Read More...
DHANGADHI: Kailari Rural Municipality in Kailali district has decided to reimpose lockdown restrictions from Wednesday, until further notice. A decision to this effect was taken following the detection of COVID-19 in a rural municipality staffer. According to information officer of the local l Read More...
POKHARA: A 38-year-old policeman in Pokhara Metropolitan City-3, without any travel history, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, on Wednesday. Following moderate symptoms, the personnel's swab sample had been collected on August 2 which came out positive today. According to the Read More...
MADRID: Rafa Nadal's decision to skip the US Open because of health concerns has added another twist to the intriguing three-way battle for the most career men's Grand Slam titles and, in many eyes, the title of Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). Had the 34-year-old Spaniard managed to retain the title Read More...
MUMBAI: India's federal investigative agency will probe the death of a Bollywood actor, its top prosecutor said on Wednesday, the latest twist to a murky case that was reported as a suicide and has dominated Indian social media for over a month. Sushant Singh Rajput, 34, was found dead at his res Read More...