ByteDance, the China-based parent of popular video music platform TikTok, has been in denial mode the past two days.
ByteDance last night denied a Financial Times story that it would launch its much-anticipated public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange some time after the first quarter next year. “There is absolutely zero truth to the rumors that we plan to list in Hong Kong in Q1,” a ByteDance spokesman told Reuters in an email.
Hong Kong’s stock market has lost a handful of IPOs this year as protests rock the city.
ByteDance was on the defensive earlier this week, when it dismissed concerns that its practices and content were creating a security risk to the U.S., following increasing scrutiny from U.S. legislators. U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Tom Cotton (R-Oklahoma) last week wrote acting head of U.S. intelligence Joseph Mcguire, asking that the agency determine if TikTok presented “national security risks.”
“With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore,” wrote Schumer and Cotton.
ByteDance had been working on its defensive moves earlier this month when U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) called for the Committee on Foreign Investment to investigate ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of the lip-syncing app Musical.ly, which ByteDance subsequently merged with TikTok. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Rubio said that the app “is censoring content…not in line with the Chinese Government…”
In an unsigned blog post responding to the Schumer-Cotton letter, ByteDance said it was committed to transparency and accountability…in the U.S. and around the world,” and that it would be forming “a committee of outside experts” to ensure that it can serve “our users and community effectively and responsibly.” In response to Rubio’s letter the company said its “U.S.-based team… was not influenced by any foreign government.”
TikTok enables users to create 15-second videos that include soundtracks. Popular among teens, the app has been downloaded almost 1.5 billion times since the company’s launch in 2016.
- According to Statista, almost 229 million people watched online videos in the U.S. in 2018 — 70% of the population.
- TikTok was the third-most downloaded app in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2019, according to research group ComScore.
- The most popular platform for watching video in the U.S. is Google-owned YouTube, which generated 126 million views alone in June 2018.