The business of social media has never been more affected by global politics.
That fact was illustrated by ByteDance’s decision to pull its popular TikTok app out of Hong Kong this week.
Albeit in vague terms, the Beijing-based tech giant said it did so in response to the Chinese government’s new draconian security laws. “In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” the company said in a statement.
The move also followed fresh threats by U.S. officials to ban TikTok here at home.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an interview with Fox News that he was “looking at” such a ban.
Earlier, Pompeo publicly condemned the Chinese government’s new security laws. “The United States is deeply concerned with the law’s sweeping provisions,” he said during a press conference on July 1.
The U.S. government was already wary of Chinese tech companies. Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission officially designated Huawei and ZTE as threats to national security, and barred U.S. providers from using government subsidies to purchase equipment from either Chinese telecom giant.
Regardless of ByteDance’s official rationale for exiting Hong Kong, the company has already taken pains to make TikTok more palatable to U.S. lawmakers.
Those efforts have included hiring a growing number of American tech executives to run its U.S. operations.
In May, for example, the company poached top Disney executive Kevin Mayer to serve as its new COO and CEO of TikTok.
At the time, TikTok’s app had been downloaded approximately 172 million times by U.S. consumers, according to Sensor Tower.
Since then, the app’s fortunes have only become more closely tied to its U.S. presence. Since TikTok just got booted from India, it's now more reliant on the U.S. to make money.
India’s Ministry of Information Technology recently decided to ban TikTok and 58 other apps of Chinese origin for threatening the “sovereignty and integrity” of the country.
Tensions between the two countries have been high, following a deadly face-off along the Himalayan border last month.
The ban dealt a major blow to ByteDance, which had counted India as one of its most valuable markets.As of April, approximately 30% of TikTok’s more than 2 billion users resided in India, according to estimates from Sensor Tower.