For the past two years, TikTok has been positioning itself as an entity with decision-making that’s independent from its Chinese parent company ByteDance, as it tries to convince U.S. lawmakers that China’s government will not access American user data or use the app to influence Americans. The app has had mixed success placating U.S. security concerns. More than half of U.S. states have banned TikTok from government devices, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill to ban social media companies under the influence of China. TikTok executives have denied U.S. allegations of Chinese interference. New revelations about its leadership structure won’t make their job easier.
The app’s new head of U.S. ecommerce, Sandie Hawkins, answers directly to a ByteDance executive, instead of into TikTok’s leadership, my colleague Juro reported Tuesday. Hawkins took on the new role in November, reporting to Bob Kang, ByteDance’s ecommerce chief. Kang, in turn, reports to Zhang Lidong, ByteDance’s Beijing-based China chair, Juro reported. None of these individuals report to TikTok’s CEO Shouzi Chew. Plus, many of the managers who worked on TikTok’s early ecommerce efforts came from ByteDance-owned Douyin.