In an attempt to “set the record straight”, TikTok has started a new website — tiktokus.info — which will collate all of the company’s statements, “expert opinions” and other information. The website is targeted at users in the United States of America, where the company stands to be banned unless its parent company, Chinese-owned ByteDance, divests itself from it soon, as per an executive order that President Donald Trump had issued on August 14. The order gives ByteDance 90 days to sell TikTok and delete all data of US-based users.
In a blog post announcing the creation of its information hub, titled “Setting the record straight”, TikTok hopes to make the case for itself to American consumers. It reads: “Today, we’re taking another step to continue to build trust with our TikTok community by delivering the facts – in our own words and in the words of leading experts across cybersecurity, media, and academia – because we neither support nor stand for the spread of misinformation on our platform, or about our platform”. This blog post, however, is not accessible within India, at least not without a VPN, owing to the June 29 ban on the app and its website in India under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
The new website’s “Expert Opinions” section features articles from prominent publications such as the New York Times, CNN and Bloomberg, all of which defend TikTok’s overall position in the company’s disagreements with the US government. Articles cited include reports by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and New York Times’ technology reporters, while opinions and editorials from Bloomberg and Forbes have also been listed.
The post also announced the creation of new Twitter account which will share company news in real time. The account has been active at least since August 13, when it sent its first tweet.
Owing to the uncertainty around TikTok’s future in United States, multiple companies have reportedly entered the race to acquire TikTok, including software majors Microsoft and Oracle. Reliance is also reportedly in talks with ByteDance to acquire TikTok’s Indian arm.
‘Never provided US user data to Chinese government’
On the new website, TikTok states that its US user data is stored in the state of Virginia, with a backup located in Singapore with “strict controls on employee access”. It denied that TikTok had ever provided US user data to the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked. “Any insinuation to the contrary is unfounded and blatantly false,” it added.
Although the new website states that TikTok is not available in China, which is true, it does not mention that its parent company, ByteDance, has an analogous app, Douyin, in China.
TikTok has been denying claims of sharing user data with the Chinese government in India as well, A day before the ban on TikTok was announced, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer had written to the Indian government stating that the Chinese government had never requested user data of Indian users and the company would not turn it over even if asked.
A few weeks later, the company’s India head Nikhil Gandhi reiterated Mayer’s claim in a blog post, saying that TikTok had not shared Indian users’ data with any foreign government, nor has it used it to compromise the integrity of India. “Even if we are requested [by a foreign government] to [share Indians’ data] in the future, we would not do so,” he wrote.
TikTok enters music distribution business, inks deal with UnitedMasters
Meanwhile, despite the turmoil the company is currently facing, TikTok announced on Monday that it would enter a music distribution partnership with UnitedMasters, which is popular with independent artists. Tiktok said the partnership would allow Tiktok users to distribute their music directly to other streaming platforms. TikTok will also partner with UnitedMasters in promoting key artists on the platform, according to its announcement post.
In the same post, Ole Obermann, global head of music at TikTok, said, “TikTok artists who are creating music in their bedrooms today will be featured in the Billboard charts tomorrow.”
Criticism in India over fake news, national security
TikTok has attracted considerable criticism from Indian politicians across the political spectrum. Several members of Parliament including Congress’s Shashi Tharoor, Telugu Desam Party’s Jaydev Galla and Biju Janata Dal’s Pinaki Mishra had called for a ban on TikTok, alleging that it was spreading fake news, collecting user data and sharing it with the Chinese government.