However, the video platform, which became a world hit with entertaining dance videos, raises a fundamental question that must be answered with the increasing success of Chinese tech companies: How do Western governments, which are used to an American-dominated tech market, deal with a social network from China?
Chinese tech companies have been trying to make the leap into the international market for years. Giants of the Chinese social media market such as the chat app WeChat have hardly made it beyond Chinese communities abroad, and even payment services such as Alipay from Alibaba are used primarily by Chinese tourists. TikTok is the first Chinese social media platform to make this leap, especially into the American and European markets, where many other companies had previously failed.
Bytedance, the company behind TikTok, also failed at first: First, it had rapidly gained market share in China with its news app Toutiao. Messages are only suggested to the users by algorithms. But the concept flopped internationally. In the next attempt, however, Bytedance became a Chinese success story first in China and then in the rest of the world with a timeline of short videos – also selected by an algorithm. The Chinese and the international app work in principle the same way, but have different names: Douyin in China, TikTok abroad. Users also have no access to the content of the other platform. Now Bytedance has overcome the first hurdle – and must convince the rest of the world that the company is not an agent of the Chinese government.
There is no official indictment of the US government against TikTok, which explains how exactly the company is supposed to endanger national security. But in the end, almost all of the accusations revolve around possible surveillance.
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