Report: U.S. Executives Flee TikTok Because China Calls All the Shots

07 July 2022, Berlin: The logo of the video community TikTok at the fashion fair Premium. Photo: Jens Kalaene/dpa (Photo by Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images), Xi Jinping, China's president, waves after speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for Hong Kong's chief executive John Lee in Hong Kong, China, on …
Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images, Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former TikTok employees are claiming that at least five senior leaders at the social media firm have left in the last two years because they discovered they were unable to significantly influence decision-making as the company is still largely directed by its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

Forbes reports that former TikTok employees allege that at least five senior leaders hired at the firm in the last two years have left upon discovering that they would not be able to significantly influence decision-making at the company. Three of the former department heads who spoke with Forbes anonymously said that after taking their positions, they learned that they would be expected to follow explicit directions from the Beijing office of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.

ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming

ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming (STR/Getty)

TikTok Influencers film video (MIGUEL MEDINA /Getty)

One former leader stated: “A lot of our guidance came from HQ, and we weren’t necessarily a part of strategy building. I’ve been in this industry for a long time. I don’t want to be told what to do.” Another former employee who reported o a strategy team based in Beijing said that a fourth department head also recently left the firm after a corporate reorganization caused that person to report to ByteDance leadership in Beijing rather than U.S.-based TikTok leadership.

The employee noticed a theme among the departures, stating: “Folks are hired in leadership positions in the U.S. and then their scope is reduced in favor of folks in Beijing,” One high-profile departure was Roland Cloutier, who served as the company’s Global Chief Security Officer until July. Cloutier reportedly left the role as the company created a new department to manage U.S. user data, which TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew stated, “changes the scope of the Global Chief Security Officer (CSO) role.”

TikTok has attempted to create a PR strategy to downplay its deep ties to China.

Breitbart News reported:

According to recently leaked documents, TikTok has been attempting to develop strategies to deal with its biggest public perception issue — its close links to China. The PR documents are titled “TikTok Master Messaging” and “TikTok Key Messages,” and outline press talking points in English and another European language. The larger document is the 53-page TikTok Master Messaging document which outlines key messages that the company wants to make public.


Near the top of the list for messaging priorities for TikTok is “Downplay the parent company ByteDance, downplay the China association, downplay AI.” Later in the document, the company advised employees that although young people love TikTok, “the app is only for users aged 13 and over.”

The language used in the documents is similar to the content of a TikTok executive’s testimony before the United Kingdom’s parliament and the company’s letters to United States senators. The link to China is reportedly a known issue for TikTok’s PR team and it is mentioned frequently in both documents.

Read more at Forbes here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan


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