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TikTok’s CEO Kevin Mayer quits as app battles with Trump administration

TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance. (Dreamstime/TNS)

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has abruptly stepped down as the ByteDance-owned video app faces mounting pressure from the Trump administration.

On Wednesday, Mayer sent a memo to employees informing them of his decision, and he cited “structural changes” resulting from Trump’s push for the company to sell off its U.S. business.

“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for,” Mayer said in an email to employees obtained by USA TODAY. “Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.

Mayer, a former Disney executive, took the role in mid-May. Vanessa Pappas, general manager of TikTok in North America, will step in as interim head of the company’s global operations.

“We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin’s role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision. We thank him for his time at the company and wish him well,” TikTok said in a statement.

The corporate shakeup comes as TikTok approaches an important date. The app that’s popular among teens has been ordered by the White House to either sell its U.S. arm by Nov. 12 or be blocked from operating in the country.

The administration originally set a mid-September sell-by date but ultimately gave TikTok more time to give up its U.S. division to a company such as Microsoft.

“I’ve always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok US was a big draw for me,” Mayer said in the email. “As we look to the next phase of this company, there is no doubt that the future is incredibly bright.”

The CEO news is the latest update in what has been a rocky battle between President Trump and ByteDance over the app’s supposed threat to national cybersecurity. In a recent executive order, Trump alleges that there is “credible evidence” that TikTok may share user data with the Chinese government.

TikTok responded to the order with a lawsuit, claiming that the administration “ignored our extensive efforts to address its concerns.” The social media platform argued that the ban prevents it from its Fifth Amendment right to due process.

“We do not take suing the government lightly, however we feel we have no choice but to take action to protect our rights, and the rights of our community and employees,” TikTok said.


©2020 USA Today

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