In response to the recent congressional hearing, the TikTok Communications team has been addressing inaccuracies with facts head-on. We connected with our partners at TikTok to answer ten myths that have been circulating around the U.S. and clarify them with corrected information.
MYTH: TikTok's parent company, ByteDance Ltd., is Chinese-owned.
FACT: TikTok’s parent company ByteDance Ltd. was founded by Chinese entrepreneurs, but today, roughly 60% of the company is beneficially owned by global institutional investors, 20% is owned by ByteDance employees around the world (including nearly 7,000 Americans), and 20% is owned by the company's founder (who is a private individual and is not part of any state or government entity).
MYTH: Decisions about TikTok are made in Beijing.
FACT: TikTok, which is not available in mainland China, has established Los Angeles and Singapore as headquarters locations to meet its business needs. TikTok's CEO, Shou Chew, is based in Singapore and oversees all key day-to-day and strategic decision-making when it comes to TikTok. TikTok's senior leadership team is based in Singapore, the United States, and Ireland.
MYTH: TikTok manipulates content in a way that benefits the Chinese government or harms American interests.
FACT: TikTok is an entertainment app. The content on TikTok is generated by our community. TikTok does not permit any government to influence or change its recommendation model.
MYTH: ByteDance censors TikTok content on behalf of the CCP or Chinese government.
FACT: There are no TikTok content moderators in China. Content moderation on TikTok is overseen by the U.S. and Ireland-led Trust and Safety team. All content is moderated based only on publicly available Community Guidelines, which are also developed by the Trust and Safety team. Regardless of how content is flagged to TikTok, no content is removed without going through an established moderation processes. TikTok does not remove content on behalf of any government except in compliance with legal processes for content that violates local law.
MYTH: TikTok stores U.S. user data in China, where multiple Chinese nationals have access to it.
FACT: 100% of traffic in the United States is routed to Oracle. Access to that environment is managed exclusively by TikTok U.S. Data Security (USDS), a team led by Americans, in America. TikTok has begun the process of deleting historic protected user data in non-Oracle servers. Once that process is complete, it will effectively end all access to protected U.S. user data outside of TikTok USDS except under limited circumstances.
MYTH: The Chinese government can compel ByteDance to share U.S. TikTok user data.
FACT: TikTok Inc., which offers the TikTok app in the U.S., is incorporated in California and Delaware, and is subject to U.S. laws and regulations governing privacy and data security. Under Project Texas, all protected U.S. data will be stored exclusively in the U.S. under the control of the U.S.-led security team.
MYTH: TikTok collects a significant amount of sensitive data on its users.
MYTH: TikTok takes a lax approach to the security of user data.
FACT: TikTok limits the types of data collected and discloses the data that is collected, how it’s used and with whom. TikTok has begun the process of setting up controlled gateways - currently controlled by USDS - for all data coming into the environment and all data going out.
MYTH: TikTok takes a lax approach to minor safety & privacy in order to addict teens to its platform.
FACT: TikTok has taken numerous steps to help ensure that teens under 18 have a safe and enjoyable experience on the app, and many of these measures impose restrictions that don't exist on comparable platforms. Accounts registered to teens under 16 are set to private by default and are prevented from sending direct messages; content made by our users under 16 is ineligible for recommendation into the For You feed to further protect privacy and help ensure safety. TikTok also prevents teens from receiving late-night push notifications and gives parents and guardians the ability to create further restrictions on these notifications through Family Pairing.
MYTH: ByteDance used TikTok data to surveil journalists and their precise locations.
FACT: A small group of ByteDance employees misused their access to TikTok user data in an effort to identify employees who leaked confidential company information to journalists. The aim of those employees, all within the internal audit department, was to investigate whether other employees leaked confidential company information to reporters, and if so, to identify those employees. As part of that investigation, they engaged in a misguided effort to determine whether suspected employees had previously been in the same approximate location as the reporters believed to have received the leaked information. TikTok and ByteDance condemned this effort in the strongest possible terms. As a result, three employees have been terminated, and one employee has resigned.