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TikTok Spokesman Claims Beijing-Based Company Is Not Chinese-Owned

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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TikTok is not a Chinese-owned company because its parent company is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, a spokesman for the company told The New York Times.

The spokesman for the video sharing social network did not mention how many employees associated with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance are based in the Cayman office, according to a Monday New York Times report about former Walt Disney Company executive Kevin Mayer’s new role as TikTok’s chief executive.

Corporations frequently use the Cayman Islands as a tax haven due to lack of corporate tax, allowing international companies to retain more investments from taxation.

Mayer’s hiring comes as some American politicians worry TikTok’s ties to China pose a national security threat.

One of the most prominent lawmakers expressing skepticism of TikTok’s aims is Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who pointed out Tuesday that TikTok previously said it could not testify before Congress because its employees were based in China.

Hawley warned in a March press statement that TikTok’s parent company “includes Chinese Communist Party members in leadership,” and stated that “TikTok has admitted that it has sent user data to China.” The U.S. Army has banned the app on all devices over national security concerns, the senator explained during his “Dangerous Partners: Big Tech & Beijing” hearing in March.

TikTok “previously told me they couldn’t attend hearings and testify because executives were located in China. But this new executive lives in the USA. I look forward to hearing from him. Under oath,” Hawley said in a tweet before sharing the Wall Street Journal’s report Monday on Mayer’s hire.

Chinese internet entrepreneur Zhang Yiming founded ByteDance in 2012, which now has a number of apps including TikTok, where users create and share short dance, lip-sync and comedy videos. (RELATED: TikTok Reinstates Live Action Account, Apologizes, Says ‘Human Error’ Caused Ban)

Analysts say TikTok is using Mayer’s close proximity to the Disney brand as a way to ease lawmakers’s concerns.

“They want to use the Disney family-friendly branding that Kevin Mayer provides to calm down unhappy regulators — and nervous investors — about TikTok’s numerous privacy difficulties,” Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a consumer protection group, told The Washington Post Monday. This fits a pattern.

TikTok announced in March that it would stop using China-based moderators to monitor overseas content, a move that will reportedly result in more than 100 China-based moderators shifting to other positions inside the company, The Wall Street Journal reported in March.

Hawley is not the only lawmaker who is expressing concern.

Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Tom Cotton of Arkansas are asking the US intelligence community to assess TikTok’s national security risks, saying in a statement in October that such apps could be used to spy on US citizens or become targets of foreign influence campaigns.

TikTok has not responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment about the spokesman’s claims.

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