TikTok is hiring hundreds more US staff in a show of confidence against Trump

TikTok is hiring hundreds more US staff in a show of confidence against Trump
The TikTok app is displayed on an Apple iPhone on August 7, 2020 in Washington, DC.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • TikTok has increased its number of US job postings even with President Donald Trump trying to force a sale of its US business or ban the app in the country altogether.
  • An analysis by Business Insider found that the number of jobs listed at three of TikTok's US offices increased slightly in the past week to 357 positions.
  • Several of the roles are in TikTok's trust-and-safety team, which is trying to prove the app doesn't harvest more data than similar services.
  • Sources at TikTok told Business Insider the company's US executives were acting and hiring as if it's business as usual.

TikTok's response to the threat of a nationwide ban in the US is perhaps an unusual one: It's continuing to hire in the hundreds.

The number of jobs listed in the company's New York, Los Angeles, and Mountain View, California, offices has increased 3.5% in the past week to 357 posts, an analysis by Business Insider has found.

The share of job listings in TikTok's US offices as a proportion of all openings available at the company has also increased slightly, to 28% from 27.4%.

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That's despite President Donald Trump issuing two executive orders designed to compel the company to sell its US operations to an American company or risk a ban in the US. Microsoft and Oracle are believed to be the two leading bidders.

"TikTok seems to still be hiring at an impressive clip," said Brendan Gahan, a partner and chief social officer at Mekanism, a US creative agency. "I imagine they must be incredibly confident that they're not going anywhere. Trump pushing back the ban deadline probably reinforces this perception."


Trump announced on Sunday in a second executive order that he was setting a 90-day deadline for any deal to buy TikTok — a doubling of the previous 45-day limit.

The hires "demonstrate their confidence that there is a future for their company, which I also believe," said Karyn Spencer, a former Vine employee who is now a senior vice president at the influencer marketing firm Whalar.

She went on to describe TikTok's US CEO Kevin Mayer and the company's general manager, Vanessa Pappas, as "two very capable people with deep experience in steering large companies through challenges." She also said she's "sure there are an army of lawyers ready to fight as needed."

"They don't seem scared of Trump's tactics to bully them and distract the country," she said.

TikTok has threatened a lawsuit against the administration, while a sole employee is planning to file his own suit later this week calling the ban unconstitutional because he believes it would rob him and his colleagues of their paychecks.


TikTok is staffing up in battleground areas such as safety and regulation

TikTok is staffing up in key areas that could be useful in a battle with the Trump administration over the company's future.

Many of the listings involve the company's trust-and-safety team, which has been tasked with proving the app does not harvest or handle data differently from the ways of other social platforms and doesn't siphon off data to China.

Others indicate a lot of work ahead.

A listing for a New York-based privacy and regulatory affairs counsel requires the successful applicant to review new products and features "to ensure compliance with data protection laws" and to "assist in compliance and design" alongside developing policies around privacy and data-protection practices. The salary is not listed.

"At a time when unemployment is at an all-time high, TikTok is probably able to scoop up a lot of top-tier talent much easier than usual," Gahan said.


The company is also making moves to defend itself more robustly in public. TikTok launched a website on Monday designed to rebut claims about its privacy record.

Three US-based TikTok employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak with the media, said the hiring spree wasn't surprising.

"I don't think anything's changed," one said. "We're just continuing to grow and evangelize the app. The plan is to be here for the long term, and the executives are sorting that out now."

The company has said it plans to hire 10,000 employees in the US in the coming three years despite Trump's threatened ban, adding to its roughly 1,500 workers in the country.

Gahan also believes the hiring spree serves a second purpose beyond ensuring there are enough workers to maintain TikTok's meteoric growth.


"If they're able to publicize their hires, it may become increasingly unpopular to ban the app," he said.

"There are a lot of people out there desperate for work — shuttering a company actively hiring wouldn't be a popular decision to make right now."