TikTok reportedly preparing a US copy of the app’s core algorithm in order to appease lawmakers

TikTok, the popular short-form video sharing app, has been facing scrutiny from American lawmakers due to concerns over its ties to China. In a surprising move, TikTok has reportedly been working on a secret project to clone its recommendation algorithm specifically for its U.S. users. This cloned algorithm would operate independently of its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and potentially address the concerns raised by American lawmakers.The project, ordered by ByteDance late last year, involves hundreds of engineers in both the U.S. and China working to separate millions of lines of code. The goal is to create a distinct code base for the U.S. version of TikTok that is completely independent of the systems used by Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese counterpart. This separation would involve eliminating any information linking to Chinese users, a monumental task considering the complexity and interconnectedness of the code.The effort to split the source code predates the bill that was signed into law in April, forcing a sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations. Although there are no current plans for such a sale, the completion of the code split could pave the way for it in the future. According to sources with direct knowledge of the project, this move demonstrates the lengths to which TikTok is willing to go to mitigate the political risks it faces in the U.S.

This information, revealed in a Reuters report, offers a rare glimpse into the technical intricacies involved in separating TikTok’s U.S. operations from its Chinese parent company. The project is expected to take over a year to complete and highlights the challenges of disentangling the underlying code that connects the two entities. While TikTok has publicly denied the claims made in the report, the company’s actions suggest a different story.

The separation of the recommendation engine would mean that TikTok U.S. would be responsible for maintaining its own algorithm, independent of the engineering resources of its parent company in Beijing. This could potentially impact the performance and user engagement of the app, as TikTok has heavily relied on ByteDance’s engineers for updates and maintenance.Despite the legal challenges and technical complexities, TikTok’s engineers reportedly continue to work on separating the U.S. recommendation engine. This move, if successful, could appease U.S. regulators and lawmakers who have expressed concerns about data security and potential influence from the Chinese government. However, the long-term implications of this separation remain uncertain, as TikTok navigates the complex political landscape and strives to maintain its popularity in the U.S.

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