TikTok Develops Separate Algorithm for US Users, Raising Divestiture Questions

TikTok Develops Separate Algorithm for US Users, Raising Divestiture Questions

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TikTok has announced the building of a replica of its recommendation algorithm specifically for its 170 million American users.

This independent system could pave the way for a stand alone US version of the app, potentially addressing concerns from lawmakers who have called for a ban,according to sources with direct knowledge of the efforts.

The effort to separate the algorithm’s code base began before a US law requiring a sale of TikTok’s US operations was passed in April.
While the company denies plans for divestiture, anonymous sources suggest the new algorithm could facilitate such a move.

TikTok initially declined comment but later disputed the report’s accuracy without specifying the inaccuracies. The company previously stated a forced sale would be impossible. A lawsuit challenging the law is currently under fast-tracked review.

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The project involved hundreds of engineers in the US and China meticulously dividing millions of lines of code to create a system independent from the Chinese version of TikTok (Douyin). This separation aims to eliminate any connection to Chinese user data.

This development offers a glimpse into the potential technical complexities of separating TikTok’s US operations.

It highlighted the company’s efforts to mitigate political pressure. US officials, including President Biden, expressed concerns about user data security and potential Chinese government influence.

Previous reports suggested a complete app sale, including the algorithm, is unlikely due to Chinese export controls.

The recommendation engine’s core code originated in China but was adapted for various global markets, including the US. TikTok attributed its success largely to the effectiveness of this user-engagement focused algorithm.

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