High-level positions at TikTok’s U.S. operation are being filled with executives from China’s ByteDance, raising concerns among many employees. Employees say they are concerned about direct influence from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after the high-level executives began working in their new roles.
According to the Wall Street Journal, many employees have complained that what is being publicly disclosed does not accurately represent what is actually happening. “The China-based ByteDance is subject to CCP regulation and can be pressured by the government to hand over information that the company has collected, which has in the past raised concerns over whether American users of the app are having their data collected by the foreign government” reports The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF).
ByteDance executives have moved over into roles at TikTok in its advertising, human resources, monetization and e-commerce departments. According to the WSJ, some executives brought entire teams with them from their Beijing headquarters.
DCNF adds that a former executive for ByteDance claimed in a legal filing that a group of members within the CCP had special credentials that could grant access to U.S. user data from TikTok. The CCP could allegedly access network information, SIM card identification and IP addresses of users to track and identify them.
As for the history of ByteDance’s cooperation with the United States, ByteDance first separated its U.S. social media operation in 2021, at which point TikTok employees claim to have gained more decision-making power independent of the parent company, according to the WSJ.
However, at the beginning of 2023 new executives from ByteDance arrived at the company and started taking a greater role in decision-making, indicating a closer connection with the parent company and, in turn, greater Chinese influence.
DCNF reports how the Biden administration has handled the social media apps alleged split from the CCP:
President Joe Biden previously gave an ultimatum to TikTok to divest from ByteDance or face a potential ban in the U.S. but has since engaged in negotiations with the two entities in order to avoid a ban. A proposal was submitted in August 2022 from Byte Dance to the U.S. detailing how it would relinquish control of TikTok’s U.S. operation to a three-person board chosen by the Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, but that has yet to be acted on.
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