TikTok chief executive quits amid row with Trump administration

App’s future in US remains unclear after months of back-and-forth

Andrew Naughtie
Thursday 27 August 2020 13:22 BST
TikTok to fight Trump's ban

The CEO of TikTok, Kevin Mayer, has abruptly stepped down as the Trump administration considers banning his app, whose connections to China and ability to capture users’ data have raised serious concerns in the US.

In a resignation statement describing the company’s future as “incredibly bright”, Mr Mayer offered few details, instead couching his explanation for stepping down in generic language.

“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for. Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.

“I want to be clear that this decision has nothing to do with the company, what I see for our future, or the belief I have in what we are building.”

The US government’s concerns about TikTok are so grave that Donald Trump this month signed an executive order forcing it to either sell to an American company within three months (extended from a month and a half) or face a US ban.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, this week filed a lawsuit against the order, saying it has not been given a chance to fully respond to the Trump administration’s national security concerns and that it does not share data with the Chinese government.

The company has also said the proposed ban on the app is in fact part of a more general hawkish turn towards China – a response to the Communist Party bringing Hong Kong under more authoritarian rule and sending hundreds of thousands of Uighur people to what many outside governments describe as concentration camps.

The US government has already taken a harsh line on Chinese trade practices, as well as the involvement of Huawei in 5G infrastructure projects around the world. In TikTok’s view, the company has simply been caught up in a diplomatic cold war.

However, it has also been banned in India, and may yet be ruled against in other countries reportedly concerned about China’s motives.

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