TikTok denies report that it is creating a US-only algorithm

TikTok Ban AM AH 1

TikTok has categorically denied the report that it is working on splitting its source code to create a US-only algorithm. The company labeled the report as “misleading and factually inaccurate.” The ByteDance-owned social media app said it is “simply not possible” to create a separate recommendation algorithm for its US users, certainly not within the 9-month timeline provided under the new law.

TikTok confirms it isn’t splitting its algorithm for the US

Last month, US President Joe Biden signed a bill that would ban TikTok in the country for security reasons unless ByteDance sells its US operations to a domestic company. The Chinese firm has until January 2025 to decide, though it has already said that a sale is not an option. Instead, it has sued the US government over the possible ban.

TikTok says the law is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment rights of American citizens. Several TikTok creators who earn a livelihood from the app have also supported the company, filing a similar lawsuit against the US government. These lawsuits aim to block the law, allowing the platform to continue operations in the country under ByteDance’s ownership.

In the meantime, Reuters reported that TikTok is working on a version of its recommendation algorithm that works separately from the app’s Chinese version, Duoyin. The company has tasked hundreds of engineers with separating millions of lines of code so that the US version of the platform has its unique algorithm with no link to any information about its Chinese users.

According to the publication, which cited unnamed people with direct knowledge of the matter, the work has been ongoing since late last year but it would take another year to complete the split. The report suggested TikTok is open to selling its US arm if it loses the court battle. Since the platform wouldn’t fetch much without its algorithm, it is seemingly working on creating one.

TikTok says this is false

However, this may not be true, if we are to believe TikTok’s latest statement. In a post on X, the company said, “The Reuters story published today is misleading and factually inaccurate. As we said in our court filing, the ‘qualified divestiture’ demanded by the Act to allow TikTok to continue operating in the United States is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally. And certainly not on the 270-day timeline required by the Act.”

In a separate statement to The Verge, the company reiterated that the report about splitting the recommendation algorithm is “100% false”. “While we have continued work in good faith to further safeguard the authenticity of the TikTok experience, it is simply false to suggest that this work would facilitate divestiture or that divestiture is even a possibility,” it said. Time will tell what happens to TikTok in the US when the January 2025 deadline arrives.

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