TikTok is bleeding US staff as insiders decry overreaching Chinese leadership


It hasn’t been easy for TikTok to ascend to the top of the social media game. The US government has been closely monitoring the app’s unexpected surge in popularity despite the fact that ByteDance, the firm that created it, is a Chinese company. TikTok asserts that company has taken measures to allay worries about national security, such as passing American user data through Oracle servers. However, based on the alarming rate at which US executives are replaced, it appears that ByteDance’s C suite still exerts significant influence over what happens at TikTok. Some of them claim they left because they simply have no power to change anything within the business.

In the past two years, TikTok hired at least five senior executives to oversee various areas in its US operation. All of these executives have since gone. After being hired, three of them admitted to Forbes that they would be expected to report to ByteDance executives, giving them little to no control over decision-making. Another employee reported that a fourth department head left after they were supposed to go to Beijing as a result of a business restructure.

The most well-known resignation from TikTok to date occurred in July when Roland Cloutier, the company’s global chief security officer, secretly left the position when Chinese leadership transferred US user data to a new department.

All of these actions raise questions about how much of an effort TikTok is actually making to separate its US operations from ByteDance’s China systems. TikTok is still closely monitored by federal authorities even after the Biden administration lifted the prohibition imposed by the Trump administration. In June, an FCC commissioner called for TikTok to be taken down from the main app stores, and politicians have proposed legislation to restrict its usage on government devices.

Although TikTok is working to improve how it handles user data in the US, the fact that it can’t even keep American executives contentedly employed doesn’t help its cause.

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