WSJ: TikTok Considers Rebranding to Hide Chinese Ownership

TikTok video app
AFP/Getty

Chinese tech firm ByteDance is reportedly considering a U.S. rebrand of its massively popular short-form video app TikTok in order to shed its Chinese roots.

The Chinese-based tech firm ByteDance is reportedly considering a U.S. rebrand of its short-form video-sharing app TikTok as it attempts to distance the app from its Chinese roots, according to the Wall Street Journal. TikTok has come under fire recently from U.S. politicians worried that the app may actually pose a threat to national security.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) asked the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, recently to investigate the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to determine if it poses “national security risks.”

“With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” wrote Schumer and Cotton, who currently sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Given these concerns, we ask that the Intelligence Community conduct an assessment of the national security risks posed by TikTok and other China-based content platforms operating in the U.S. and brief Congress on these findings.”

TikTok published a response to this in an unsigned blog post in which the company stressed its independence from China. The firm stated that it is not “subject to Chinese law,” and stressed that it has “never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked.”

The senators stated that they feared that TikTok would be forced to adhere to Chinese laws which would “compel Chinese companies to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” Schumer and Cotton worried that TikTok could be a “potential target of foreign influence campaigns like those carried out during the 2016 election on U.S.-based social media platforms.”

Now, the Wall Street Journal alleges that TikTok employees have advised senior executives that a tactical rebrand of the app could help it to avoid recent scrutiny. The app already attempts to distance itself from its Chinese roots by limiting how much content made by Chinese users shows up on the app in the United States; one source also told the Journal that ByteDance may move its HQ from Beijing to Singapore.

A ByteDance spokesman denied both of these claims and stated that the app is not considering a rebrand or moving the ByteDance HQ to Singapore. “It is well known that ByteDance was founded in China. But the reality is that the TikTok app does not operate in China, and we are building out and empowering teams in the markets where it does operate. We have been very open about this,” a ByteDance spokesperson said in a statement.

The WSJ  added that ByteDance is under pressure from investors at SoftBank and Sequoia to improve its business operations in the U.S. which is seen as a vital growth area. A source also claimed that ByteDance is still heavily pressured by the Chinese government and is apparently forced to run government ads free of charge on TikTok.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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