Understanding TikTok's Global Influence

9 May 2024

Tiktok Inc., and ByteDance LTD., v. Merrick B. Garland Update Court Filing, retrieved on May 7, 2024, is part of HackerNoon’s Legal PDF Series. You can jump to any part in this filing here. This part is 2 of 11.

A. TikTok Is a Speech Platform Used by 170 Million Americans.

12. TikTok is an online video entertainment platform designed to provide a creative and entertaining forum for users to express themselves and make connections with others over the Internet. More than 170 million Americans use TikTok every month, to learn about and share information on a range of topics — from entertainment, to religion, to politics. Content creators use the TikTok platform to express their opinions, discuss their political views, support their preferred political candidates, and speak out on today’s many pressing issues, all to a global audience of more than 1 billion users. Many creators also use the platform to post product reviews, business reviews, and travel information and reviews.

13. In the United States, the TikTok platform is provided by TikTok Inc., a California-incorporated company that has its principal place of business in Culver City, California and offices in New York, San Jose, Chicago, and Miami, among other locations. TikTok Inc. has thousands of employees in the United States. Like many platforms owned by companies that operate globally, the global TikTok platform is supported not only by those employees, but also by employees of other ByteDance subsidiaries around the globe, including in Singapore, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, Australia, and China. Many of the global TikTok platform’s functions are spread across different corporate entities and countries, and the global TikTok business is led by a leadership team based in Singapore and the United States. Like other U.S. companies, TikTok Inc. is governed by U.S. law.

14. TikTok Inc.’s ultimate parent company is ByteDance Ltd., a Cayman Islands-incorporated equity holding company. ByteDance was founded in 2012 by Chinese entrepreneurs. Over time, the company sought funding to fuel growth, as is common in the technology sector, which resulted in the issuance of additional equity and the dilution of existing shares. Today, approximately 58 percent of ByteDance Ltd. is owned by global institutional investors (such as BlackRock, General Atlantic, and Susquehanna International Group), 21 percent is owned by the company’s founder (a Chinese national who lives in Singapore), and 21 percent is owned by employees — including approximately 7,000 Americans.

15. ByteDance launched TikTok in May 2017 in over 150 countries, including the United States.[3] Since its launch, TikTok has become one of the world’s most popular applications, with over 1 billion users worldwide. As of January 2024, more than 170 million Americans use TikTok on a monthly basis.

16. Users primarily view content on TikTok through its “For You” page, which presents a collection of videos curated by TikTok’s proprietary recommendation engine. The recommendation engine customizes each user’s content feed based on how the user interacts with the content that the user watches. TikTok’s popularity is based in large part on the effectiveness of the recommendation engine. The source code for TikTok’s recommendation engine was originally developed by ByteDance engineers based in China, and the engine is customized for operations in TikTok’s various global markets, including in the United States. TikTok is not offered in mainland China.

17. Aside from TikTok, ByteDance has developed and operates more than a dozen other online platforms and software applications for use in U.S. and international markets, including for content-sharing, video and music editing, e-commerce, gaming, and enterprise productivity.

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This court case retrieved on May 7, 2024, from sf16-va.tiktokcdn.com is part of the public domain. The court-created documents are works of the federal government, and under copyright law, are automatically placed in the public domain and may be shared without legal restriction.

[3] TikTok was later relaunched in August 2018 following a transaction involving the company Musical.ly. See generally Petition for Review, TikTok Inc. v. CFIUS, No. 20-1444 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 10, 2020).