TikTok bleeds US staff as insiders decry excessive Chinese leadership

It’s not layoffs, it’s just frustration

TikTok’s rise to the top of the social media game has not been smooth. While the app has become extremely popular in a short time, this sudden surge in popularity has been closely watched by the US government as it originates from a Chinese company, ByteDance. TikTok says it has taken steps to assuage national security concerns, including routing US user data through Oracle servers. But it looks like ByteDance’s C-suite still has a say in what happens at TikTok, as it shakes up US leaders at an alarming rate. Some of them say they quit because they just can’t influence anything inside the company.


At least five senior executives hired by TikTok to lead departments within the company’s US division over the past two years have left. Three of them revealed to Forbes that after being hired, they would have to report to the heads of ByteDance, leaving them little to no influence in decision-making. Another staff member said a company reorganization led to the departure of a fourth department head after he was due to report to Beijing.

TikTok’s most high-profile departure to date came in July when global security chief Roland Cloutier quietly quit after Chinese leaders placed U.S. user data under the purview of a new department.

All of these moves cast doubt on whether TikTok is actually making a huge effort to decouple its US operations from ByteDance’s Chinese systems. Even though the Biden administration removed the Trump-era TikTok ban, the app is still under close scrutiny by federal authorities. An FCC commissioner called for the removal of TikTok from major app stores in June, while lawmakers introduced legislative proposals to limit the use of TikTok on government devices.

TikTok in the US could be moving forward to improve its handling of user data, but the fact that it can’t even keep US executives happy in the job doesn’t help its case.