As it grows in popularity in the U.S., social video app TikTok wants to distance itself from its Chinese roots, with advisors and employees coming up with suggestions for rebranding strategies in that direction, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
TikTok is facing increasing pressure from lawmakers and regulators in the U.S., and the company has reportedly been having meetings about whether to rebrand. Some executives say expanding into a Southeast Asia country like Singapore would help.
TikTok has also gotten rid of a lot of the Chinese content that appears on the app. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing. Rules in China are different in terms of data and some are afraid that information from millions of Americans is now easily accessible to the Chinese government.
Some of TikTok’s investors, like Sequoia Capital and SoftBank Group, believe continued growth in the U.S. is instrumental to an eventual goal of taking the company public next year.
A spokesperson for ByteDance said going public wasn’t a priority, and moving to Singapore wasn’t on the table. The company is not going to change its name, he said, nor does it have any ability to control Chinese content, since users upload videos.
“It is well-known that ByteDance was founded in China,” he said. “But the reality is that the TikTok app does not operate in China, and we have been further building out and empowering teams in the markets where it does operate.”
TikTok operates a different version of the app in China, called Douyin. Many are fearful that the Chinese government could demand data from the company at any time.
“We are stuck in between,” one ByteDance employee said. “We are a Chinese company, and we do business overseas.”
Another employee said that if the government asked for U.S. data, it would push back.
“The Chinese government has never asked us to provide access to any TikTok U.S. user data, and we would not do so if asked,” a ByteDance spokesman said.