Who owns TikTok? China’s ByteDance is filing a lawsuit against the US government’s ban

TikTok has filed a lawsuit to try to block a U.S. government law that would ban the video-sharing app or force its parent company ByteDance to sell it.

The April 23 Senate ruling gives the Chinese company a year to sell its stake or be removed from U.S. application stores.

Joe Biden signed the law as part of a package that also included sending foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel.

The law requires ByteDance to sell its US operations by January 19, with a three-month extension if a sale is in progress.

TikTok has 170 million users in the US and has said the law is an “extraordinary infringement on freedom of expression”, according to the BBC. This, they say, would endanger the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

And implementing the changes within the time frame is not “commercial, not technological, [and] not legally possible,” Al Jazeera quotes.

The full statement reads: “For the first time in history, Congress has enacted a law that subjects a single named speech platform to a permanent, nationwide ban, banning every American from participating in a unique online community of more than a billion people . worldwide.

“There is no doubt about it: the law will force a shutdown of TikTok by January 19, 2025, silencing the 170 million Americans who use the platform to communicate in ways that cannot be replicated elsewhere.”

Here’s everything we know about the app’s parent company.

Who owns TikTok?

The popular video sharing app is technically owned by a Beijing-based company called ByteDance. Founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming, this Chinese internet technology company has created several platforms that host an estimated 1.9 billion active monthly users.

ByteDance developed several video apps before TikTok launched to international markets in 2017.

Despite ByteDance’s founders having a controlling stake, they only own 20 percent of TikTok, with 60 percent owned by institutional investors (including organizations in the US) and the remaining 20 percent owned by employees.

The company is headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, with three of TikTok’s five board members from the United States. While ByteDance is the parent company, TikTok is led by Singaporean CEO Shou Zi Chew.

Who else has TikTok accused of releasing personal information?

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns previously warned Britons against using the app, as she deemed it unsafe. She said the platform exposed users’ data to “hostile” threats, especially the Chinese government.

“It’s not worth having that vulnerability on your phone. It is the ultimate source of data for anyone with adversarial efforts,” Ms Kearns told Sky News.

“Our data is a major vulnerability and China is building a totalitarian technology state based on our data. So we have to become much more serious about protecting ourselves.”

TikTok has denied that it would ever pass on users’ personal information to others.

It is known that TikTok’s parent company has used TikTok data to track down several Western journalists and identify their sources.

In November 2019, a class action lawsuit was filed in California, alleging that TikTok transferred personally identifiable information of US users to servers owned by Chinese technology conglomerates Tencent and Alibaba.

The lawsuit accused ByteDance of taking TikTok users’ content without their consent. The prosecutor explained how the company had used her biometric data to create an account on TikTok in her name.

In July 2020, twenty other lawsuits of the same nature emerged, which were merged into one class action lawsuit in Illinois.

TikTok settled the lawsuit by paying $92 million (£74 million) in February 2021.

TikTok has faced bans or restrictions in several countries for various reasons, including concerns over data privacy, national security and content moderation. Some of the countries where TikTok is banned or significantly restricted include:

  • India: In June 2020, India banned TikTok and several other Chinese-owned apps, citing national security concerns amid border tensions between India and China. Before the ban, India was TikTok’s largest international market, with more than 200 million users.

  • Indonesia: In July 2018, Indonesia temporarily banned TikTok, citing concerns about inappropriate content and potential negative impacts on children and adolescents. The ban was later lifted and conditions were imposed on content moderation.

  • Pakistan: In October 2020, Pakistan banned TikTok over concerns over “immoral and indecent” content. The ban was lifted after TikTok assured the government that it would implement better content moderation measures.

  • Bangladesh: In February 2019, Bangladesh temporarily banned TikTok, citing concerns over the spread of inappropriate content. The ban was lifted later that month after TikTok agreed to better regulate its content.

What personal data does TikTok have access to?

TikTok collects various personal data from its users, including:

  • User account information: This includes username, email address, phone number and password.

  • Profile information: Users can provide additional information about their profile, such as age, gender, location and profile photo.

  • Content data: TikTok collects information about the content that users create, share, or interact with on the platform, including videos, comments, likes, shares, and posts.

  • Device information: TikTok may collect information about the devices used to access the platform, including device type, operating system, hardware model, and unique device identifiers.

  • Usage data: This includes information about how users interact with the app, such as the videos they watch, the duration of their sessions, and their engagement with other users.

It is important to note that the specific data collected by TikTok may vary depending on factors such as user settings, consents granted, and applicable laws and regulations.

TikTok’s privacy policy outlines the types of data collected, how it is used, and the options available for users to manage their privacy settings and control their data.

Users should review the privacy policy and make informed decisions about using the platform and the data they share.

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