TikTok has denied being under the thumb of the Chinese Government, saying that “the suggestion…is completely and utterly false”.
This comes after the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, alleged that TikTok users in the US are at risk of their data falling “into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”.
TikTok has come under pressure from Washington over its future in the US, with the Government considering banning TikTok unless it splits from China and becomes an American company.
ByteDance, the owner of the video-sharing app, is based in Beijing but domiciled in the Cayman Islands, and has recently held talks with the UK Government about moving its international headquarters to London.
Theo Bertram, TikTok’s head of public policy for EMEA, told BBC Today that TikTok had not yet made any decision about where its international headquarters should be located, though he added that the company is “committed to growing further in the UK”.
A spokeswoman for the Department of International Trade said: “ByteDance’s decision on the location of their global HQ is a commercial decision for the company.”
Bertram also denied allegations that TikTok was lenient towards paedophiles who were caught grooming children via the app. This comes after The Daily Telegraph claimed it had seen leaked documents, which showed that users found to have messaged children in a sexually inappropriate manner had to commit three offences before being permanently banned from the platform. Bertram said the company had changed its policy on this topic over a year ago, and that it had “zero tolerance” for such behaviour.
This latest development follows an increase in tensions between the UK and China, with the Government’s recent decision to order the removal of Huawei’s 5G equipment from Britain’s mobile networks by 2027. The decision has created fears that it could prompt an economic war between the two countries.
Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, said on the Andrew Marr Show: “We are still evaluating the consequences. This is a very bad decision.”
TikTok employs about 1,000 people in Europe, the majority of whom are based in the UK and Ireland. Should the company choose to build its headquarters in the UK, there is potential for a further 3,000 jobs to be created, according to The Sunday Times.
The app has more than two billion downloads, with its popularity having increased drastically over recent months.