Chinese-owned video app TikTok is reportedly searching for a new headquarters outside of China as the company attempts to shake its Chinese image.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Bytedance Inc., the Chinese company behind the popular social media and video hosting app TikTok, is searching for a new global headquarters for the app. Bytedance is reportedly searching for a location outside of China as the company attempts to shake its Chinese image which has drawn skepticism surrounding user data and censorship on the platform.
Reports claim that Singapore is being considered, as is London and Dublin, Ireland. No American cities are currently on the shortlist according to one source. Currently, TikTok does not have an HQ, but the majority of its senior executives are based in Shanghai and its main office which runs U.S. operations out of Los Angeles.
Executives at Bytedance, a startup with an estimated worth of $75 billion, have been brainstorming ways to rebrand TikTok as the app comes under pressure from U.S. lawmakers over national-security concerns. TikTok has become famous for its short viral clip format featuring comedy sketches, lip-syncing videos, and footage of cute animals. Global downloads for TikTok have surpassed Instagram and Snapchat in 2019 according to mobile-data aggregator App Annie.
The app had 665 million smartphone monthly active users worldwide in October, an increase of 80 percent from the year previous. Approximately 20 million of those users were in the United States. When asked about a search for a global HQ, a TikTok spokesperson stated: “We have been very clear that the best way to compete in markets around the globe is to empower local teams. TikTok has steadily built out its management in the countries where it operates.”
But, it seems unlikely that a HQ outside of China will relieve the pressure placed on TikTok. Peter Fuhrman, the Shenzhen-based chairman and founder of investment advisory firm China First Capital, commented on this stating: “That’s like dressing a panda in a business suit. It’s unlikely to fool anyone. They’ll still be in congressional crosshairs and still subject to the same stringent content rules within China itself.”