The head of AI research at Bytedance is leaving the company as the tech giant faces intensifying international scrutiny of its popular short video app Tiktok, Reuters reported.

Why it matters: Bytedance has seen a slew of setbacks in its international operations as countries including the US and India look to limit its presence within their borders.

  • The company recently hired former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as Tiktok’s chief executive officer in a bid to assuage concerns over the company’s Chinese ownership.
  • China has ambitions to become the world’s forerunner in AI technologies, but it battles to retain its AI talent, according to report by US think tank Macro Polo.

Details: Ma Wei-Ying will leave Bytedance this week, Reuters cited a source as saying. A replacement has not yet been made public.

  • The AI researcher joined Bytedance in 2017 after leaving Microsoft Research Asia, becoming its vice president and head of the company’s AI lab.
  • Ma was trained in Taiwan and the US, and received a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1997, according to his Linkedin profile.

Context: Bytedance is facing heightened pressure after the app was banned in India—the company’s largest international market—in late June and faces the possibility of similar measures in the US.

  • Tiktok was one of 59 Chinese apps banned in India over national security concerns. Previously, the app was pulled from app stores in the country after a state court found that it was used to spread pornography and encouraged predatory behavior.
  • In the US, two federal agencies are investigating whether the app breached a deal it made in 2019 to protect children’s rights.

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.