Bytedance, the company behind popular short video platform Tiktok, will put the company’s users, employees, and vision at the forefront as it attempts to counter the possibility of further bans abroad, CEO Zhang Yiming said in a letter to employees on Monday.

Why it matters: The low-profile billionaire commented on his concerns in deciding Tiktok’s future as the short video app faces a possible ban in the US and swirling rumors that American tech giant Microsoft could acquire its US operations.

  • US President Donald Trump, who is expected to further crack down on Chinese software companies, has given Bytedance a deadline of September 15 to negotiate Tiktok’s sale.

Details: Zhang said in the memo that Tiktok is currently engaged in preliminary discussions with an unnamed tech company to ensure the service will still be available to US users. The letter was obtained by Chinese media.

  • Zhang said the firm will protect Tiktok’s “uniqueness” and hopes the platform’s user experience won’t be affected by changes that could come with the sale.
  • The CEO said that he would take into consideration the interests and career paths of Tiktok’s team when thinking about the future of the short video app.
  • Zhang hopes Tiktok’s final settlement will align with the company’s broader vision, which aims to “inspire creativity and enrich life,” he said.
  • In the letter, Zhang confirmed that the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals by foreign acquirers for potential national security risks, required Tiktok to sell its US operations.
  • The company didn’t seek clearance from CFIUS when it acquired Musical.ly, which was later integrated into Tiktok, for $1 billion in 2017.
  • “We still haven’t come up with the final plan, so the public attention and rumors surrounding Tiktok may last for a while,” he said in the letter (our translation).

Context: Along with the rising tensions between China and US, trouble for Tiktok in the US has been brewing for months. Bytedance has been seeking a solution to increased scrutiny of Tiktok’s US operations by pursuing a deal with a possible buyer for the platform.

  • Bytedance and Microsoft have resumed negotiations for a buyout of all Tiktok operations in the US after US President Donald Trump said on July 31 he would ban the video-sharing app and oppose the potential deal. 
  • Tiktok is also among 59 apps that were removed from app stores in India at the end of June, with the Indian government citing national security concerns. Meanwhile, Japanese lawmakers are also eying a possible ban as security concerns over the Chinese government’s access to user data rises globally.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.