A top White House official has provided a possible option for embattled TikTok to avoid being banned in the U.S.: break away from its Chinese owner ByteDance and operate as an American company.
“We haven’t made final decision but ... I think TikTok is going to pull out of the holding company which is China-run and operate as an independent American company,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow told reporters on Thursday, according to a report by Reuters.
Kudlow declined to comment when asked if U.S. companies could acquire TikTok. But he said that getting independence from ByteDance could be “a much better solution than banning” the popular short-video service.
Kudlow’s remarks came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier this month that the Trump administration was weighing its options over a possible ban of Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, over their possible relationship to the Chinese government and handling of user data.
TikTok has consistently denied allegations that it mishandles user data and acts on the behest of the Chinese government.
In order to ease the security and privacy concerns, TikTok has taken a litany of measures including hiring Walt Disney’s former streaming head Kevin Mayer as its new CEO. But the move failed to satisfy top U.S. officials like White House trade advisor Peter Navarro, who dubbed Mayer as an “American puppet” for working at a Chinese app.
On Wednesday, U.S. tech news provider The Information cited a ByteDance investor saying that in the face of growing U.S. oversight, the company was mulling plans to focus more on business in its home market by exploring opportunities in new sectors, and was trying to develop another hit app.
These new developments could be a blow to the confidence of ByteDance founder and CEO Zhang Yiming, who is focusing on building the company’s global management team as part of its overseas expansion plan.
Last week, a TikTok spokesman said in a statement that ByteDance was assessing corporate structure changes for its TikTok business, Reuters said.
Contact reporter Ding Yi (email@example.com)