TikTok is one of the largest social media platforms on the web. Video sharing app with over 1 billion users worldwide.
However, the platform has also been a source of controversy when former US President Donald Trump tried to ban the app due to perceived national security risks.
This discussion could continue now that the Chinese government controls a stake in ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. While this partial ownership won’t necessarily affect the TikTok app or the user experience, it is part of a more important push for more state control over the burgeoning tech sector. development of the country.
It should be noted that China’s stake in ByteDance is still relatively small, with the state granting only one percent ownership of the company. However, the Chinese government also has more direct influence than its small stake.
The company’s subsidiary, Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. In addition to their partial ownership, the Chinese government now controls one of the three seats on the subsidiary’s board of directors. While the Chinese government has long exercised extreme levels of censorship on social media, the shift gives the state an unusual degree of direct control over corporate decision-making. .
This is not the first case of ByteDance showing close ties to the Chinese government. In 2019, The Washington Post reported that a search for #HongKong on TikTok returned very few results regarding the protests that followed in the city. The publication also shows that TikTok has imposed strict restrictions on user speech. However, ByteDance has denied both allegations.
The company claims that an American censorship group sets US censorship policies without interference from the Chinese government. ByteDance also attributes the lack of protest-related videos simply because users come to TikTok to see fun, non-political content.
Despite that, ByteDance denied that partial ownership by the Chinese government would lead to any changes to TikTok. Company spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide declined to comment directly on the Chinese government’s involvement with the company but said it was “not related” to TikTok.
However, it could prompt US policymakers to take a closer look at the already scrutinized video-sharing platform. While a judge blocked Mr. Trump’s TikTok ban, US political leaders remain skeptical of the platform.
Duke University researcher Matt Perault points out that China’s stake in ByteDance does not automatically mean that it poses any additional security risks. However, the perception of danger could be enough to lead US politicians to take further action against TikTok or ByteDance in general. “Surveillance and suspicion of Chinese companies operating in the US is a matter of concern,” Perault said.