SEATTLE – Five hours later on Friday, an internal email appeared on the backtrack after Amazon employees told them to delete their popular phone app Tiktok from their phones, calling the ban wrong.
“Some of our employees’ emails were sent by mistake this morning,” Amazon emailed reporters just 5 minutes before Amazon Eastern Time. “There is no change in our policy regarding ticks right now.”
Company spokesman Jackie Anderson declined to answer questions about what caused the confusing change or error.
The initial internal email, which was widely circulated online, told employees a video app called Tiktok, which is growing popular among young people, but focused on intensifying national security and geopolitical concerns due to its Chinese ownership. The email cites the app’s “security risks.”
An Amazon employee who confirmed receiving the initial email but was not authorized to speak publicly did not see any withdrawal during Amazon’s backtrack.
Amazon is the second largest U.S. private employer after Walmart. Going against the tick can increase the pressure on the app in a big way, especially if other companies do it too. The U.S. military has already banned tickling on employees’ phones, and the agency is subject to a national-security review of its integration history.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said this week that the government is “definitely” looking at stopping confusing and annoying posts by tick users as well.
Owns the Chinese internet company ByteDance TickTock, which is designed for users outside of China; It makes a Chinese version called Duine. Like YouTube, Tiktok relies on its users for videos to popularize its apps. It has a reputation for being funny, silly videos and popular with young people, including millions of Americans.
Critics, however, cited concerns about censoring videos, such as criticizing the Chinese government, sharing user data with Chinese officials, and violating children’s privacy. Tiktok says it does not censor videos based on topics sensitive to China and does not give the Chinese government access to U.S. user data if asked.
Tiktok said the day before that Amazon did not report it before sending the initial email to the East just before noon on Friday. The email read, “TickTock application is no longer allowed on mobile devices that access Amazon email.” To retain mobile access to the company’s email, employees had to delete the TickTock app at the end of the day.
“We still don’t understand their concerns,” Ticktock said at the time, adding that the attachment would welcome dialogue to resolve Amazon’s problems. A spokesman for Tiktak declined to comment further Friday evening.
Tiktok is trying to pacify critics in the United States and try to distance itself from its Chinese origins, but has found itself caught on a growing sticky geopolitical web.
It recently announced the name of the new CEO, Disney former executive Kevin Mayer, a move experts say could help U.S. regulators move. And it is halting operations in Hong Kong as a new Chinese national security law has resulted in Facebook, Google and Twitter cutting off user data to Hong Kong authorities.
Pompeo also said the U.S. government was concerned about the tick and cited an investigation by the administration of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and ZTE. Washington has mixed success in trying to persuade allies to pull Huawei out of the telecom network. President Donald Trump has also said he is willing to use Huawei as a bargaining chip in trade talks. Huawei has denied that it enabled espionage by the Chinese government.
A U.S. national security agency is reviewing the purchase of TickTock’s predecessor, Musical.Ye’s ByteDance. Privacy groups, meanwhile, say Tiktok is violating children’s privacy even after the Federal Trade Commission fined the company in 2012 for collecting personal information from children without their parents’ consent. Amid tensions between the countries, privacy concerns are not limited to dozens of Chinese apps this month, including Tiktok.
The U.S. government says China regularly steals intellectual property in the United States, with Susan Ariel Aronson, a professor at George Washington University and data government and national security expert, saying Amazon may be concerned about the data usage of employees of the Chinese-owned app.
Part of Amazon’s motivation with the ban is now clearly reversed, perhaps even politically, Aaronson said, since Amazon “doesn’t want to isolate the Trump administration.”
Seattle-based Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos are frequent targets of Trump. Bezos personally owns the Washington Post, which Trump calls “fake news.” Last year, Amazon sued the United States, claiming that Trump had “personal revenge” against Amazon, Bezos and the Post, forcing Microsoft to lose a $ 10 billion cloud computing deal with the Pentagon to compete. Meanwhile, federal regulators as well as Congress are conducting a no-confidence investigation along with other technologists at Amazon.