TikTok CEO resigns amid battle with the White House

TikTok CEO resigns amid battle with the White House
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TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer resigned on Wednesday amid mounting uncertainty over the Chinese-owned video app's future in the United States.

Mayer, who had only been with the company since May, said in a note to employees that a series of changes to TikTok's structure had prompted him to step down from his post, according to a copy obtained by The Hill. The move comes just weeks after President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE signed an executive order that would effectively ban the wildly popular social media app from operating in the U.S. unless it found a U.S.-based owner. 

“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 the note. "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."

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“I understand that the role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the U.S. administration’s action to push for a sell off of the U.S. business,” he added. 

The Financial Times first reported on Mayer's resignation. Vanessa Pappas, general manager of TikTok in North America, will move into his role on an interim basis, Mayer said in his note.

TikTok said in a statement to The Hill that it appreciated "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.” 

Mayer, a former executive at Walt Disney, moved into the role as chief executive of TikTok in May as the company looked to fend off escalating pressure from lawmakers about its collection of data and the possibility that it could be shared with the government in China. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese internet firm, and local laws in the country allow for the government seizure of private businesses' data. 

TikTok has repeatedly said it stores American user data in the U.S. with strict protections. 

But Trump cited privacy concerns in early August when signing an executive order that barred U.S. transactions with TikTok starting Sept. 20. The president one week later issued a second order calling for ByteDance to divest its American assets and any data it obtained from U.S. TikTok users.

"There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance Ltd. ... might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States," Trump said in the order demanding a divestment. 

Trump has expressed an openness to allowing TikTok to remain operational in the U.S. with an American-based owner. Microsoft has said it is in talks with ByteDance about a potential deal. Oracle is reportedly in talks about an acquisition as well. 

TikTok on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration alleging that its decision to effectively ban the app in the U.S. violated its right to due process. The company also argued that the administration has failed to offer evidence about a security threat it poses. 

TikTok has exploded in popularity in recent years, with roughly 100 million American users and more than 2 billion downloads worldwide. The company has hired more than 1,000 employees over the last year amid its surge in user growth and has stated it plans to hire an additional 10,000 workers in the coming years.  

--Updated at 8:56 a.m.