TikTok is building a US-based version of its algorithm. Here's what that means for you

The move aims to placate lawmakers and could impact the future of the US ban.
Written by Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer
TikTok logo on a smartphone against an American flag
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On April 24, national security concerns prompted President Biden to sign a bill that would ban popular short-form video platform TikTok if ByteDance, the app's Chinese parent company, fails to sell it within a year. But the latest move from ByteDance could go a long way toward preventing that from happening.
According to Reuters, even though TikTok is fighting the ban, it's still creating a US-based clone of its recommendation algorithm that functions independently of the Chinese one. The move has been in the works, Reuters says, since before last year's legal battle (the company also sued the US government earlier this month over the law).

Also: TikTok bans explained: Everything you need to know

For most users, this doesn't change a whole lot. Especially since the process started last year, the site will still function just like it did before, and your algorithm will perform like it always has.

What this does show is that ByteDance is preparing for a US ban, and has been since before Biden signed the bill into law. It also gives creators a little more certainty about investing time and energy into the platform, as ByteDance clearly wants to keep TikTok working in the United States. 

If you have any worries about TikTok going away, this should lessen those fears.

Over the past months, Reuters wrote, hundreds of ByteDance and TikTok engineers began the work of separating millions of lines of code. The goal was to create an identical algorithm that was separate from anything related to the Chinese version of the app. This was a massive undertaking, and shows just how far ByteDance will go to keep its app running in America.

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There has been speculation that this could be the beginning of an official separation of the company's US assets. TikTok, however, says it not only has no plans to sell any assets, but that a separation of that kind would be impossible. 

"As we said in our court filing," TikTok posted on X, "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."

The question remains: will American TikTok be the same? Reuters notes that the app relies heavily on ByteDance engineers in China to update and maintain code to keep users engaged. We'll learn soon enough if the US-based side of the company can keep that same commitment.

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