TikTok’s crucial product decisions are still controlled from China staffers

Bytedance, a Beijing-based technology startup, owns TikTok and also runs a Chinese version of the site called Douyin. TikTok and Douyin are two distinct companies. They keep their data in various locations and follow distinct sets of rules and business processes. TikTok is geared toward the international market, with data saved in Singapore and the United States, whereas Douyin is primarily focused on the Chinese local market, with data maintained in China. However, since the site has come under increasing criticism in the West, TikTok has changed into emergency mode by de-Sinicizing. While consumers publish videos from the comfort of their own homes on TikTok, the firm is actively separating itself from Beijing.

China has been trying for months to bring its booming internet industry under control with an increasing number of antitrust enforcement actions and data security investigations. According to corporate documents and individuals familiar with the situation, the Chinese govt discreetly took a holding and a board seat in TikTok owner ByteDance's primary Chinese firm in April, as per corporate records and people familiar with the matter.

The action provides Beijing additional information about ByteDance, the world's richest privately owned internet business, which controls several of China's most popular applications, including Douyin and Toutiao, as well as TikTok. The government's access to one position on a three-person board of directors of Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. Ltd., which has Chinese business permits for Douyin and Toutiao, raises concerns about how much more control Beijing has over ByteDance overall.

Aside from product choices, certain activities are handled by Bejing HQ, according to two current workers, such as providing a customer early access to a new feature or adding a bespoke song that isn't accessible in TikTok's commercial music catalogue. Because some choices about TikTok's product strategy need feedback from Beijing personnel, TikTok employees outside of China are frequently invited to participate in late-night conversations. In a YouTube video that has received over 150,000 views, another former worker, who left TikTok in October after serving as a product supervisor, detailed the power imbalance between the US and Beijing teams.

H/T: Insider.
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