Skip to main content

Go read this report on ByteDance employees with ties to Chinese state media

Go read this report on ByteDance employees with ties to Chinese state media

/

A Forbes survey of LinkedIn profiles found some overlap

Share this story

The TikTok logo repeated across a red background
TikTok logo
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Hundreds of employees at TikTok’s parent company ByteDance used to work for Chinese state media outlets — and more than a dozen apparently still do, Forbes reports.

Forbes surveyed LinkedIn profiles of ByteDance and TikTok employees and found that 300 people had previously worked for state media entities, with current roles at the tech firm including content partnerships, strategy, policy, monetization, and “media cooperation.”

Of the profiles Forbes reviewed, 15 suggested that the ByteDance employees work at the tech firm and state media outlets simultaneously. It’s possible these employees simply neglected to update their profiles — employees contacted by Forbes didn’t respond. But the overlap between state media and ByteDance employees appears well-established.

Forbes writes that ByteDance spokesperson Jennifer Banks didn’t contest that the 300 employees worked at the company or that they were previously affiliated with state media outlets. Hiring is done “purely on an individual’s professional capability to do the job,” Banks told Forbes.

“For our China-market businesses, that includes people who have previously worked in government or state media positions in China. Outside of China, employees also bring experience in government, public policy, and media organizations from dozens of markets.”

Regarding the 15 people whose profiles suggest they hold both jobs, Banks told Forbes that ByteDance “does not allow employees to hold second or part-time jobs, or any outside business activity, that would cause a conflict of interest.”

TikTok’s ascension to becoming one of the most popular apps in the US has prompted concerns from lawmakers that the platform’s ties to China pose a national security risk. Forbes writes:

People spend more time on TikTok today than they do on any other app. In recent months, the app has been hailed as a powerful driver of American culture, and has rapidly emerged as a critical player in our electoral and civic discourse. The LinkedIn profiles raise further concerns that China could use TikTok’s broad cultural influence in the US for its own ends, a fear that led a cohort of US politicians, including former president Donald Trump, to call for a ban on the app in 2019.

The profiles also provide critical insight into how ByteDance manages its relationship with Chinese state media entities. In addition to TikTok, ByteDance runs numerous other websites and services, including two of mainland China’s most popular apps: Douyin (a short-form video app) and Toutiao (a news aggregator). Chinese state media entities are among the most popular accounts on Douyin, where they have many millions of followers. Many of the LinkedIn profiles detail work on Toutiao and Douyin, which must comply with stringent Chinese censorship laws.

A smattering of reports in recent months detail the various ways TikTok is connected with its China-based owner ByteDance. In June, Buzzfeed News reported that US TikTok user data was repeatedly accessed by employees in China. And a Gizmodo story from July showed the lengths TikTok goes to distance itself from ByteDance, including an emphasis on “downplay[ing] the China association.”

The Forbes story notes that going from state media publications to working at ByteDance might be a fairly typical career path — people move between government and tech companies in the US, too. But for a company already under close scrutiny for its ties to foreign governments, the additional connections through employees are likely to raise questions.

Read the Forbes story here.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 34 minutes ago Striking out

E
External Link
Emma Roth34 minutes ago
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
Youtube
Andrew Webster5:33 PM UTC
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew Webster4:28 PM UTC
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew Webster1:05 PM UTC
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.