TikTok Denies Development of US Recommendation Algorithm

Chinese video-sharing app TikTok has denied recent reports of its alleged ongoing development of a US version of its recommendation algorithm for its 170 million users in the country.

The ByteDance Ltd.-owned social media platform said the story was “misleading and factually inaccurate,” reiterating that the divestiture required by the new Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act (PAFACA) was not feasible.

A sale was not possible commercially, technologically, or legally, and not within the 270-day deadline provided to them by the White House, according to the company.

The report, which cited sources familiar with the matter, said the popular short-form video app was working on creating a US copy of its recommendation algorithm that might allow it to operate separately from its Chinese parent and be more acceptable to US officials looking to ban it.

Splitting the code would supposedly help ByteDance kick off a sale of TikTok’s US assets.

The platform and its parent firm filed a lawsuit against the US government earlier this month, aiming to stop the app’s obligated sale or ban mandated by PAFACA on January 19, 2025.

Uncertainty Surrounds TikTok’s US Independence

In the last few years, TikTok has attempted to appease US lawmakers and prove its autonomy in the country.

In July 2022, the app executed “Project Texas” to address security concerns in the US. The initiative involved separating sensitive data from US users to ensure that only its US personnel can access the information, allowing data in the country and content suggestions to exist outside China’s control.

The plan oversaw the moving of all user data in the US through the cloud infrastructure of Austin-based Oracle Corp.

However, several former US employees have cast doubts over the complete separation. They alleged that they and their colleagues were still working closely with ByteDance executives in China and that data was sometimes shared with TikTok’s parent even after Project Texas was deployed.

One ex-employee of the platform also claimed the video-sharing app had not ever been able to be fully independent of ByteDance, with its daily management and business decisions still being influenced by its parent company’s key management in China.

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