TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company with headquarters in Beijing. However, the company itself is officially registered in the Cayman Islands. ByteDance fundamentally shares two products: Douyin and TikTok.
In fact, it is the same short video application, but they run on different servers. Douyin is for Chinese servers and TikTok is for the internal Chinese market. TikTok is headed by Kevin Mayer, former supervisor of Walt Disney's streaming video services. Meyer is also Chief Operating Officer of ByteDance.
ByteDance employs some 60,000 people. The company owns 15 R&D centres around the world and has offices in 126 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul and Tokyo.
ByteDance also owns other services: Toutiao, BaBe, Lark, etc. But it was TikTok that became a real hit among youth around the world. The application has over 1 billion users from 150 countries. The application has been downloaded over 165 million times in the USA alone.
Thus, a new Chinese startup has become a major capitalization company. ByteDance's estimated value has reached $150 billion, and the number of monthly active users exceeds 1.5 billion. The most important foreign markets for the company have been the USA and India, where ByteDance has the largest number of active users (besides China).
Arguably, it has fallen under the political spotlight in these countries owing to its huge popularity. Following the escalation of relations between China and India as a result of a border incident, India banned the use of TikTok in the country, not only for downloading the application but also for all other users who already had it installed.
This decision was motivated by the fact that a software product developed in China could allegedly pose a threat to India's national security and the security of Indian users’ data.
Similar concerns are now being raised in Washington. Earlier, the US had already imposed a ban on the use of TikTok by military and government officials, now, according to Bloomberg, a complete ban on the application in the country is being considered.
TikTok has grown too fast, which is why it gives no rest to unscrupulous competitors who use political methods in their fight against it.
However, this shows that market laws do not apply to those countries that restrict the normal operation of companies. It is regrettable that ordinary users, including Americans, will be affected, Wang Peng, associate professor at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, told Sputnik.
“As for the specific application, it just says that TikTok has grown tremendously and became very popular. But because the application was developed by a company from a country that the US doesn't like very much, it automatically became perceived as a threat to national security”, the expert said.
The Chinese expert also believes that this is completely groundless – an “abuse of securitization theory and political instruments” – and this case also shows that the US is not a market economy.
“Washington can easily use administrative measures to destroy normal market competition. I feel sorry for American consumers. After all, many well-known bloggers have used social networks and applications like TikTok to make money. Blocking these applications will lead to higher unemployment. It's not fair to ordinary users”, Wang Peng said.
Finally, the expert notes that the rivalry between China and the US is at stake here. The US has recently put pressure on China in certain areas: science and technology, economy and trade, especially in IT, digital market, and pressure on Chinese technology companies that have certain international influence.
“The US is using inappropriate and unfair competition methods to gain competitive advantage and hold back the development of Chinese companies. I think this is unfair competition”, the expert stressed.
However, the US has never provided specific data that TikTok is a threat to national security. All the rhetoric has come down to the same arguments that have been made about other Chinese companies.
Since TikTok is owned by a Chinese company then, according to the National Security Law of the People's Republic of China, any information and user data could be allegedly available to Chinese intelligence services.
There have also been accusations that TikTok allegedly blocks content that Beijing does not like. However, TikTok has repeatedly responded that it moderates content in the same way as other foreign services, including Facebook, Youtube, etc.
This means that content that calls for violence, incitement to national or racial hatred, pornography is illegal on the platform.
TikTok said, in turn, that the company is constantly improving the system of protection of users' personal data and is ready to introduce some restrictions on access to users under the age of 13.
To date, the United States has not provided formal grounds to ban TikTok. On the other hand, the experience of other Chinese companies shows that Washington does not always need solid evidence.