False start? Amazon calls TikTok ban order an ‘error’, says no policy change ‘right now’

E-commerce behemoth Amazon has reversed course after ordering employees to remove micro-vlogging app TikTok from smartphones with access to Amazon email “due to security risks,” calling the demand an “error.”

“This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error,” a company spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday, just hours after the memo went out to Amazon employees. 

"There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok."

The message had informed workers they had until the end of the day to ditch the popular app or they would lose mobile access to their Amazon email accounts, citing unnamed “security risks” associated with TikTok – though they were still permitted to access the app through their laptop browser.

The fast-growing social media platform, made by Chinese firm ByteDance, was found to be secretly copying the contents of phone clipboards last month and has been accused by the US State Department of funneling data back to the Chinese Communist Party.

It’s not clear how such a message could have been sent out by mistake, especially dated with Friday’s date and coming on the heels of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s hint earlier this week that the Trump administration was looking into banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps. India has already banned it and dozens of others, while Australia has stated it is considering doing the same. The US Army and Navy have barred service members from using TikTok on military devices since last year.

The Democratic National Committee also warned its employees against using TikTok on Friday, according to an email obtained by CNN, though it stopped short of mandating the app’s deletion, instead merely “recommending” using separate phones for campaign work and TikToking. The party also warned employees about the app’s “Chinese ties and potentially sending data back to the Chinese government” in December as part of a general warning against “foreign-developed apps.”

TikTok was as baffled by the Amazon statement as anyone else, telling CNN the megacorporation “did not communicate to us before sending their email, and we still do not understand their concerns.” A company spokesperson invited Amazon to come forward with whatever issues the company had so that TikTok might “enable their team to continue participating in our community.”

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