What is TikTok Ownership Controversy?

Popular video sharing platform TikTok is facing a potential ban in the United States after the House of Representatives passed a bill recently. The move, initiated by US politicians, wants TikTok parent ByteDance to sell its US operations to American owners. The controversy has sparked a heated debate about data privacy, political misinformation, and the power dynamics between the US and China.

Reasons for the Proposed Ban

US politicians are concerned about the following issues:

  • Data privacy: Some US politicians believe that China could access American users’ data through TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance.
  • Spread of political misinformation: TikTok’s popularity makes it a prime target for the spread of political misinformation, especially during an election year.
  • National security risks: Although no evidence has been presented, some US lawmakers believe that TikTok poses a national security risk due to its Chinese ownership.

TikTok’s Origins and Ownership

Despite concerns about its Chinese ownership, TikTok has never operated in mainland China. The app was first incorporated in California in April 2015 and was pulled out of Hong Kong in July 2020 when Beijing imposed a national security law. In China, a different version of the short video app called Douyin exists, which was launched in 2016.

TikTok is owned by TikTok LLC, incorporated in Delaware and based in Culver City, California. It is controlled by TikTok Limited, which is registered in the Cayman Islands and based in Shanghai. TikTok Limited is ultimately owned by ByteDance Ltd, also incorporated in the Cayman Islands and based in Beijing.

About ByteDance

ByteDance, founded in Beijing in 2012 by Zhang Yiming, is known for creating numerous digital products, including the AI-powered news aggregator Jinri Toutiao. The company has more than 110,000 employees globally and is valued at $268 billion. Approximately 60% of ByteDance is owned by global institutional investors, 20% by ByteDance employees, and the remaining by its founder.

Political Involvement

The legislative move to ban TikTok is being led by Steve Mnuchin, who was the Treasury Secretary under the Trump administration, and a group of his influential political associates. President Joe Biden has said he would sign the legislation into law if it passes Congress.

TikTok’s Response

TikTok CEO Shou Chew has repeatedly stated that the company has never shared data of US users with the Chinese authorities. However, during questioning recently, he did not directly answer questions about the app’s ownership structure.



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