Is TikTok distancing itself from its Chinese roots? For now, it looks though, as the company recently appointed top Disney streaming executive, Kevin Mayer as its new CEO, responsible for driving its global expansion efforts.
Kevin Mayer replaces Alex Zhu, the current head of the app, and a mastermind of its success. Mayer, who was the chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international business, will also become the chief operating officer of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance. He would assume both roles starting from June 1.
Kevin Mayer was long seen as new Disney CEO
Before joining ByteDance, Mayer oversaw the launch of the theme park giant’s Disney+ streaming service last November, and was once seen as a promising candidate for Disney’s new CEO role. But the role was filled by Bob Chapek, former chairman of Disney’s theme parks and consumer products businesses, in February.
“The company is doing everything that they can to distance TikTok as an entity from ByteDance. They, perhaps rightfully, view regulators and Congress in the US as the greatest threat to their continued international growth,” said Elliott Zaagman, co-host of the China Tech Investor podcast. Zaagman says key questions remain, including how much power the former Disney veteran will really have.
TikTok has been marred by Controversy throughout its success
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The Chinese origins of TikTok, which in April reached the milestone of 2 billion downloads globally, including those of its Chinese version, has stirred worries about whether it censors content frowned on by the Chinese government, or could misuse American user data.
TikTok strongly contested both sets of allegations. ByteDance said that TikTok isn’t owned by a Chinese company, noting that the parent company is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, according to the New York Times.
Nevertheless, the app has been described as a “potential counterintelligence threat” by US senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton, and is also facing a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) into ByteDance’s acquisition of the short video app Musical.ly in 2017, which was co-founded by Zhu and paved the way for TikTok’s US success.