ByteDance squeezes Lemon8 into the US market

So, what's the deal with Lemon8?

ByteDance squeezes Lemon8 into the US market
The ByteDance logo is seen in this illustration taken, Nov. 27, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo

The backstory: In case you missed it, the latest social media sensation Lemon8 is from the same people who own the famous video-sharing platform TikTok. Lemon8 has been making waves since its debut in Japan in 2020. It has over five million monthly active users globally after expanding to countries like Britain, Indonesia and Singapore.

So, what's the deal with Lemon8? It's like a fusion of Instagram and Pinterest, where you can create longer blog-style posts on different topics, from fashion to cooking. You can also add photos and videos to jazz up your content. One feature that stands out is a customized feed based on your interests and the creators you follow.

More recently: TikTok, owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, has been under scrutiny from Western governments. Last week, TikTok CEO Shou Chew faced a tough grilling from US lawmakers during a five-hour-long congressional hearing. The US is concerned about the app's possible links to the Chinese government and worries that it could be used to spy on Americans or influence their opinions. Lawmakers also raised the issue of the app's impact on young people's mental health, suggesting that its algorithm can deliver harmful content to vulnerable users.

The development: Now, Lemon8 is going viral in the US, and ByteDance is pushing content creators to get on board. According to Business Insider and The New York Times, Lemon8 has been paying creators and offering other incentives in the UK and the US to post content on the app. Although it's available to download, the app hasn't officially launched in the US. But, its ties to ByteDance may bring it under similar scrutiny once it does.

Key comments:

“ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, invites you to become a launching creator on their new Lemon8 platform before it officially rolls out in the United States!” said one of the messages sent to creators last week, sent by a marketing firm hired to do outreach by ByteDance.

“It’s a social media platform like Instagram, it has to do with gathering information on users and it has the same ownership structure, being a child of ByteDance, so I think the same issues are going to come up,” said Lindsay Gorman, head of technology and geopolitics at the German Marshall Fund and a former tech adviser for the Biden administration.

“Neither a ban of TikTok nor a divestiture of TikTok from ByteDance does anything to address national security concerns about data transfers,” said TikTok said in a statement, touting the benefits of Project Texas.

“If what we’re worried about is Chinese-backed companies being on tens of millions of American phones, including members of the military, and privacy concerns, data concerns, misinformation concerns — that doesn’t just apply to TikTok,” said Gina Raimondo, Commerce Secretary to Bloomberg.