According to Forbes magazine, many U.S. leaders in TikTok are leaving because of the Los Angeles-based company’s increased ties to its parent firm ByteDance.

Interviews with former employees divulged that TikTok may put U.S. nationals into top positions, but eventually, it will find a way to divert the power back to Beijing. 

One former TikTok employee told Forbes, “Folks are hired in leadership positions in the U.S. and then their scope is reduced in favor of folks in Beijing.”

They wish to remain anonymous over fears of retribution.

According to the publication, at least four top executives in TikTok have resigned after being made to work under the command of ByteDance. Three of them have confirmed the arbitrary leadership order.

One said, “A lot of our guidance came from headquarters [in Beijing], and we weren’t necessarily a part of strategy building. I’ve been in this industry for a long time. I don’t want to be told what to do.”

As Forbes reported from another insider, the most recent resignation came after a corporate reorganization made one department head work with ByteDance executives instead of those from TikTok. 

This should be similar to how TikTok manipulated the global chief security officer position that Roland Cloutier previously held until this July. After the company established a new department to handle U.S. user data, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said it “changes the scope of the global chief security officer (CSO) role.”

At the same time, TikTok only superficially tried to downplay its connections to the parent company and China. Evidence of the practice was reported by Gizmodo in July, which managed to obtain PR documents from the company. 

In reality, Forbes said the situation has been the opposite. Twelve former TikTok and ByteDance workers said that ByteDance’s control over the social media platform has only expanded since 2020, to the extent that it drove senior executives away.

As examples, Forbes said, “One former TikTok employee showed Forbes a paycheck that they received that listed ByteDance, rather than TikTok, as the check’s drawer. Another told Forbes that their contract listed TikTok as their employer, but their tax returns listed ByteDance.”

It is also concerning that TikTok employees confirmed to Forbes that ByteDance executives receive direct reports from teams handling sensitive U.S. user data.

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