TikTok has begun a global restructuring of its business that includes layoffs, according to five people with knowledge of the process.
The short-form video app, owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, has rapidly expanded both its user base and workforce in recent years. Despite tensions with the Trump administration over fears it could be a tool of China’s government, TikTok crossed 1 billion monthly active users in September and now has thousands of employees worldwide. Its rapid growth and success with younger users inspired Meta’s Instagram and Google’s YouTube to launch competing short-form video products.
But on Monday morning, some employees based in Europe were informed that their jobs were at risk and told to expect invitations to meet with human resources staff in coming weeks, according to sources at the company. Some UK employees were warned that job losses will occur in a number of departments within TikTok. When US-based employees began work hours later, some were informed their roles were being eliminated.
The restructuring announced internally today includes layoffs and the closing of some vacant roles, one staff member said, and affects TikTok’s businesses in the US, EU, and UK. Plans to expand some teams inside the company have been put on hold.
One of TikTok’s earliest executive hires outside of China, David Ortiz, a veteran of Snap, announced on LinkedIn today that he was leaving the company because his role was being eliminated as part of “a much larger re-organization effort.”
A senior staff member with knowledge of the changes did not deny that a restructuring with job losses was taking place. TikTok spokesperson Anna Sopel said in a statement that the company often makes adjustments to its staffing to support its goals. “There are a small number of roles within the operations and marketing teams that shifted in focus, that can’t be called a ‘company-wide restructure,'” she said. Sopel declined to explain why Ortiz had referred to a larger reorganization effort.
TikTok joins the ranks of major tech companies and startups that have frozen hiring or made layoffs in recent weeks as fears of an economic downturn have taken hold. The company recently abandoned plans to expand its live shopping platform TikTok Shop, seen as a major new revenue source, in the United States and Europe. One former TikTok employee who left the company earlier this year says the restructuring was probably related to the broader economic climate. “I don’t think what’s happening here with TikTok’s layoffs is any different to what’s going on in big tech,” the former employee says.
Another TikTok staffer says that the layoffs were focused on individuals and teams that managers believed were not contributing enough to the company, and claimed that the number of layoffs would be less than 100. Previous statements by TikTok and sources inside the company suggest it has at least 10,000 employees across the US and Europe.
TikTok was created in 2018 after ByteDance acquired Chinese startup Musical.ly. Its rapid growth has seen the company reach milestones such as reaching 1 billion active users, drawing political scrutiny, and playing a central role in a war much more quickly than older social networks such as Facebook. “They’ve scaled at a rate we’ve never seen before,” says Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer at Mekanism, a New York marketing agency. He guesses that the restructuring won’t do much to blunt TikTok’s impact or popularity. “I can’t imagine that a few layoffs is a sign of broader troubles or anything that’s going to slow their momentum.”
Ortiz, the executive who announced his departure on LinkedIn, declined to speak with WIRED. In his post he gestured at TikTok’s brief but eventful trajectory. “Working at TikTok has been quite a ride.”
Updated 7/19/2022 2:05 pm ET: This article has been updated with comment from a TikTok spokesperson.