ByteDance Apps, Controversies, & Facts

By: Flaka Ismaili    December 15, 2021

This article is a compilation of some important and fascinating facts and figures about ByteDance that you will love to know. TikTok, which has over 150 million American users, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese technology firm ByteDance Ltd., which appoints its executives. The Chinese giant’s most popular overseas app TikTok has faced scrutiny from lawmakers across the world, in particular in the U.S., where critics have questioned the safety of American data on the platform. Several technical researchers at ByteDance, which owns the wildly popular social platform TikTok, and other researchers from Northwestern Polytechnical University, a school in China known for its work with the nation’s military, created StreamVoice.

  1. ByteDance says 60% of its shares are owned by non-Chinese investors such as U.S investment firms Carlyle Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Japan’s SoftBank Group.
  2. In response to the BuzzFeed report, a TikTok spokesperson said the company has talked openly about its efforts to limit employees’ access to US user data and the BuzzFeed News report shows TikTok is “doing what it said it was going to”.
  3. The Chinese giant is now one of the most valuable private technology firms in the world, reportedly worth $75 billion, and owns a variety of apps from news aggregators to social media services.
  4. Recently, a robocall with a deepfake of Biden told people not to vote in the New Hampshire primary.
  5. About 60 employees were laid off, mostly in the company’s sales and advertising division, according to a company spokesperson, who attributed the shakeup to a routine reorganization.

In June of 2020, the popular video-sharing app launched TikTok for Business as a way for brands to run their own ads within the app. There are several types of TikTok ads, including In-Feed ads, Brand Takeovers, and Branded Hashtag Challenges. Amidst the coronavirus crisis, while many companies are busy cutting down their workforce, ByteDance in April 2020, announced that it is hiring staff to fill 10,000 vacant posts in different domains. In 2020, ByteDance is planning to hire 40,000 employees, in a bid to match Alibaba’s headcount. Besides, ByteDance is looking forward to strengthening its position in areas such as e-commerce and gaming. In the year 2006, Yimimg became the fifth employee and first engineer at the travel website Kuxun.

Matt Schrader, an adviser on China at the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit organisation, says the data issue is a “sideshow”. Most of the social media reaction in China was sympathetic to Chew, with praise for how he handled the hostile questions lobbed at him. Chew pushed back when lawmakers claimed that the Communist Party owns shares in ByteDance that give it a vote in how the company is run.

Compare ByteDance to Competitors

In 2008, Yiming joined Microsoft, however found it tough to cope up with the company rules of Microsoft which made him leave Microsoft to join Fanfou (Twitter clone in China). In 2009, Fanfou was shut down owing to certain controversies, and that very year, Yiming started his very first startup, which is a real estate search portal. Meanwhile, smartphones began to take over and more forex scalping signals and more people started using smartphones, and Yiming could very well see the opportunity underlying it, which made him leave to start ByteDance in 2012. The spokesperson declined to comment on the music streaming product report when contacted by CNBC. In March, its subsidiary Lark Technologies launched a product called Lark, a productivity and workplace collaboration tool.

Its services are primarily used by individuals worldwide for personal communication. In one recording a member of TikTok’s trust and safety department said “everything is seen in China”, according to BuzzFeed. The orders were never enforced due to legal challenges and then Trump leaving office. Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, revoked the orders and instead directed the US commerce department to work with other agencies to produce recommendations to protect the data of people in the US from foreign adversaries. The US Committee on Foreign Investment, which scrutinises business deals with non-US companies, is also conducting a security review of TikTok.

Is ByteDance a good company to work for?

Since being appointed TikTok’s chief executive in May 2021, he has had to navigate presenting himself to the West as the autonomous leader of a global service while fulfilling the demands of the app’s Chinese parent. Most of us know ByteDance as the China-based parent company of video app TikTok, which was supposed to be banned in the United States. In 2021 Android phone users around the world spent 16.2tn minutes on TikTok. And while those millions and millions of users no doubt had an enjoyable time watching clips on the addictive social video app, they also generated a colossal amount of data. Many platforms developed by ByteDance have received wide popularity. As estimated by mobile app analytics platform Apptopia, one of ByteDance’s top popular products TikTok’s revenue raised by 310% to over $50 million in the last quarter of 2019.

Expert Collections containing ByteDance

He says considerable doubt is generated by China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017, which states that all organisations and citizens shall “support, assist and cooperate” with national intelligence efforts. This, the order claimed, paves the way for China to track the locations of government employees, build dossiers for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage. “As the geopolitical situation changes I suspect we will see companies such as TikTok will continue to be treated with some caution in the west,” says Alan Woodward, a professor of cybersecurity at Surrey University.

Talking about valuation, ByteDance is reportedly worth over US$100 billion as of May 2020 based on recent prices for the Chinese company’s shares on secondary markets, according to the Financial Times. Thus now ByteDance is valued over one-third higher than that in November 2018, when it was valued at around $ 75-$78 billion. Besides these, there are several other platforms by ByteDance like, BaBe, which is Indonesia’s leading news and content app, Gogokid –  an English learning platform for kids, and Vigo Video – a video-making app. However, as per recent reports (June 2020), ByteDance is set to shut down Vigo Video in India. In the current scenario, owing to the growing tension between China and many countries in the world, made-in-China products including apps are being boycotted by many countries like the USA, UK, Australia, Philippines, Vietnam, and India. Though the growing hate for China has led to ByteDance losing many users, but from the startup point of view, ByteDance no doubt has done a commendable job, as it rose to be the ‘World’s most valuable startup’, just within 8 years of its inception.

There is no timeline for the completion of the share repurchases, but ByteDance has asked shareholders if they’d like to sign up to the program, the person said. ByteDance is offering shareholders $160 per share, which values the firm at around $268 billion, the person said. TikTok parent ByteDance plans to spend up to $5 billion buying back stock, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC, as one of the world’s most valuable startups seeks to give shareholders a chance to cash out of their holdings. “Experiments demonstrate StreamVoice’s ability to convert speech in a streaming manner with high speaker similarity for both seen and unseen speakers while maintaining performance comparable to non-streaming voice conversion systems,” the researchers wrote.

Trell is a community-based platform for discovering lifestyles through videos in Indian languages. Users create video collections showing their explorations, travel stories and food blogs and other users can then add these activities to their own bucket-list which sends a reminder if the user is near the location or activity. Companies developing artificial intelligence solutions, including cross-industry applications, industry-specific products, and AI infrastructure solutions. The company has denied it is used to “target” US citizens in the wake of the Forbes report. In response to the BuzzFeed report, a TikTok spokesperson said the company has talked openly about its efforts to limit employees’ access to US user data and the BuzzFeed News report shows TikTok is “doing what it said it was going to”. In July, a US-Australian cybersecurity firm, Internet 2.0, published a report in which it said data collection on the app was “overly intrusive” and flagged a connection in the app to a server in mainland China, run by Guizhou BaishanCloud Technology Co Ltd.

China’s ByteDance has created a new way for people to immediately change their voice into another person’s using generative-AI technology. Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s chief executive, is balancing how to be an autonomous leader while juggling the demands of the app’s Chinese parent company. “In our opinion, based on detailed analysis, TikTok harvests much more data than WeChat. Their aggressive way of continuously requesting access to contacts after a user has decided not to share contacts is unusual,” he says. Separately, Forbes reported in October that a China-based team at ByteDance planned to track two American citizens through the collection of TikTok location data.

TikTok collects information on how you consume its content, from the device you are using to how long you watch a post for and what categories you like, and uses that information to fine tune the algorithm for the app’s main feed. ByteDance’s revenue increased to $ 17 billion in 2019, from $7.4 billion in 2018. ByteDance is reportedly exploring a whole host of new areas that could unlock new monetization potential. A spokesperson for ByteDance declined to comment on the financial figures when contacted by CNBC.