TikTok chief Alex Zhu has said he will even defy Chinese President Xi Jinping if the later personally asked him to take down a video or hand over user data.
“I would turn him down,” Zhu said in an interview to The New York Times published on Monday (18 November).
“The data of TikTok is only being used by TikTok for TikTok users,” Zhu reaffirmed in the interview.
Zhu added that TikTok doesn’t censor videos China finds objectionable. He also categorically denied that his company shares user information with Chinese state or ByteDance. TikTok stores user data in Virginia and a backup server in Singapore, said Zhu
Zhu was the founder of Musical.ly, a company later purchased by ByteDance in 2017. The $1 billion purchase enabled the explosive growth of TikTok in U.S.
Earlier this month, the US has launched an national security review of the video-sharing app TikTok following apprehensions expressed by US senators.
Senator Marco Rubio last month called for a national-security review of the 2017 deal. Rubio claimed that TikTok is censoring content at the behest of China. He accused the widely popular app of blocking sympathetic coverage of protests in Hong Kong and reports about China’s treatment of Muslim minorities.
The probe will be undertaken by CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States), the division of the US Treasury which checks foreign purchases of US companies on security grounds.
ByteDance did not seek the approval of CFIUS in 2017 as Musical.ly was a Chinese-based company.
TikTok rejected claims of censorship saying that its content moderation policies aren’t influenced by any government and that the Chinese government hasn’t requested that TikTok censor content.
Reacting to the announcement of the probe, Rubio said “I remain deeply concerned that any platform or application that has Chinese ownership or direct links to China, such as TikTok, can be used as a tool by the Chinese Communist party to extend its authoritarian censorship of information outside China’s borders and amass data on millions of unsuspecting users.
ByteDance is the latest Chinese technology company targeted by the US regulators.
TikTok has also faced regulatory issues in India and Indonesia largely due to concerns about incendiary and obscene content.
India is the main driver for TikTok. Out of the 1.5 billion downloads worldwide on the App Store as well as Google Play, India leads the chart with 466.8 million or about 31 per cent of all unique installs.
In 2019, the app accumulated 614 million downloads - six per cent more than it had last year. India has been a fast adopter in 2019, driving up 277.6 million downloads so far this year, or roughly 45 per cent of all global installs.
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