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TikTok to Remove Executive Tasked With Fending Off US Claims

TikTok to Remove Executive Tasked With Fending Off US Claims
The logo for ByteDance Ltd.'s TikTok app is displayed on a smartphone in an arranged photograph in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on Monday Sept.14, 2020. *** SECOND SENTENCE HERE ***. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

TikTok is preparing to remove a key executive responsible for convincing the US government that the company was doing enough to stave off national security concerns about its connections to China, according to people familiar with the matter.

Erich Andersen, the US-based general counsel for TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance Ltd., has led years-long talks with the American government meant to show that the app was doing enough to prevent China from accessing US users’ data or influencing what they see on their feeds.

Those efforts failed to win over an interagency government panel conducting a security review of the app and lawmakers in Washington weighing legislation that would force its divestiture. On Saturday, the US House approved a bill requiring TikTok to be sold by its Chinese parent or face a ban in the US.

Read more: TikTok Divest-or-Ban Bill Expected to Become US Law in Days

The company is planning for Andersen to exit his current role, according to the people, who discussed the move on condition of anonymity. Andersen remains with the company for now, according to one of the people.

Andersen’s role has been reduced over the past year and a half, and TikTok limited his responsibilities in January 2023 when he stopped overseeing US government relations.

Andersen referred questions to the company’s communications team.

“That is 100% false,” said TikTok spokesperson Alex Haurek, when asked for comment on whether the company is set to remove Andersen from his role.

Andersen sent an email to his legal team and other senior leaders at the company on Sunday, which confirmed that he is planning to step down from his role as general counsel, according to a report in The Information. In the email, Andersen wrote that the decision was his, and that he first initiated conversations about leaving “months ago.” He told colleagues that he will remain at the company until “we can be assured that there will be no drop off in focus and attention,” and will then serve as a legal adviser.

That divest-or-ban legislation is now accelerating toward becoming law, with the Senate prepared to pass the measure next week. President Joe Biden has already said he would sign the legislation, mandating a sale of TikTok within a year.

Andersen joined the social media company in 2020 from Microsoft Corp., where he was most recently corporate vice president and chief IP counsel.

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