Ama­zon says email to em­ploy­ees ban­ning TikTok was a mis­take

Enterprise-Record (Chico) - - NEWS - By Tali Ar­bel

Roughly five hours af­ter an in­ter­nal email went out to em­ploy­ees telling them to delete the pop­u­lar video app TikTok from their phones, Ama­zon ap­peared to back­track, call­ing the ban a mis­take.

“This morn­ing’s email to some of our em­ploy­ees was sent in er­ror. There is no change to our poli­cies right now with re­gard to TikTok,” Ama­zon emailed re­porters just be­fore 5 p.m. East­ern time Fri­day. Spokes­woman Jaci An­der­son de­clined to an­swer ques­tions about what hap­pened.

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 “se­cu­rity risks” of the app.

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 sec­ond­largest U.S. pri­vate em­ployer af­ter Wal­mart, with with more than 840,000 em­ploy­ees world­wide, and mov­ing against TikTok would have es­ca­lated pres­sure on the app. It is banned on em­ployee phones by the U.S. mil­i­tary 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.

Chi­nese in­ter­net gi­ant 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 Amer­i­can users. But it has racked up con­cerns such as cen­sor­ship of videos, in­clud­ing those crit­i­cal of the Chi­nese govern­ment; the threat of shar­ing user data with Chi­nese of­fi­cials; and vi­o­lat­ing kids’ pri­vacy.

TikTok said ear­lier in the day that Ama­zon did not no­tify it be­fore send­ing the ini­tial email around mid­day East­ern. 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 spokes­woman did not im­me­di­ately re­ply to a re­quest for com­ment 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, which 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.

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