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TikTok prohibition bill: What we know about Tiktok's Chinese owner

A U.S. flag is placed in front of Tik Tok logo in this illustration photo shot August 9, 2020

HONG KONG, March 15 (mod1s) - The U.S. House of Representatives easily approved a measure this week that would give TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance approximately six months to sell the U.S. assets of the short video app, or risk a ban, in the largest threat to the service since the Trump administration. 

Below is what we know about the Chinese corporation, which was valued at $268 billion in December. 


Nicknamed "App Factory" because to its rapid releases of mobile apps, ByteDance was created by software developer Zhang Yiming in 2012 in Beijing.

It is generally recognized as the world's top firm on algorithms since its major applications such as TikTok, Douyin and Toutiao are driven by dominating recommendation engines that make its apps enticing to consumers. 

Its first breakthrough success was Toutiao, a news aggregation app introduced in 2012 that employs machine learning algorithms to deliver each user a tailored content feed. 

Douyin, TikTok's sibling app in China released in late 2016, was an immediate hit and became ByteDance's second app with more than 100 million users in under a year after release.

ByteDance created a worldwide version of Douyin called TikTok the next year. While ByteDance maintained the two applications were positioned as two independent products from the beginning, they have the same logo and identical user interface design. 


Born in the southern coastal region of Fujian, Zhang studied software engineering at Nankai University in Tianjin. Before starting ByteDance, he worked at numerous software businesses including a short spell at Microsoft (MSFT.O), opens new tab.

In ByteDance’s early years, he spent most of his time in Beijing working on Toutiao and Douyin, but since the COVID-19 pandemic breakout, he has been spending more time overseas, with Singapore a crucial base, according to sources familiar with the subject. They refused to be identified since they were not permitted to talk to media. 

In 2021, Zhang stepped down as ByteDance’s CEO and gave the keys to Liang Rubo, his co-founder and undergraduate roommate. At the time, he indicated he lacked the social skills to be an ideal boss and would rather spend time thinking about long-term strategy for the firm away from the spotlight. 

According to a statement released by TikTok in May, around 60% of ByteDance is "beneficially owned by global institutional investors such as Carlyle Group, General Atlantic, and Susquehanna International Group," 20% by workers, and the rest by Zhang. 

Still, Zhang retains over 50% of ByteDance's voting rights, insiders added. 


Like with other significant Chinese enterprises, China's governing Communist Party has established up a party branch at ByteDance - in 2014, according to official media, raising worries about Beijing's control over the company. 

Scrutiny over ByteDance intensified further when the government purchased a 1% share in its local subsidiary Beijing ByteDance Technology in 2019 that handed the Chinese government a board seat at the company. 

ByteDance became a notable target of the U.S. government under the Trump administration which issued executive orders in 2020 that compelled ByteDance to divest TikTok's U.S. assets or risk being banned in the nation. The directives were blocked by federal courts. 

Beijing, which protested Trump's executive order, at the time amended a list of technology that would require Chinese government clearance before they are exported. Experts believe TikTok's recommendation system would come under the list. 

U.S. authorities have questioned TikTok's security and privacy, claiming user data may be shared with Beijing. 

TikTok, used by approximately 170 million Americans, has maintained the business has never shared, or received a request to share, U.S. user data with the Chinese government. 

To attempt to relieve worries, TikTok struck an association with Oracle (ORCL.N), opens new tab and began to house its American user data in the U.S. firm's cloud infrastructure from 2020. 

TikTok has been pushing back on the latest proposed law. Its CEO Shou Zi Chew stated this week that the business will pursue its legal rights to resist a ban.


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