Over the last three years, in these columns, I have chronicled the rise and rise of Chinese social media behemoth ByteDance Technology, which runs the short-form video platform Duoyin (literally “shaking sound”) and its International short-form video version, TikTok, a hugely popular and highly addictive app used by many as an outlet to express themselves through singing, dancing, comedy and lip-syncing. Within four years of its launch in 2016, TikTok became the first serious challenger to two of the largest global Internet firms, Google and Facebook.
The Trump administration initially tried to ban TikTok on national security grounds, then in early 2020 attempted to force the short-form video platform to sell a majority stake to an American company. Oracle, Microsoft and Walmart were among the early suitors.
It also wanted to make sure that all of the video platform’s US data stayed in the country and far away from the prying eyes of Chinese surveillance. Trump issued an Executive Order against TikTok. The order said the short-form video platform “allows the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage”. TikTok’s US data is now officially stored in its cloud infrastructure in Virginia, while backups of that data are stored on Oracle’s servers in Singapore.