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China and U.S. flags are seen near a TikTok logo in this illustration picture taken July 16, 2020.

Florence Lo | Reuters

TikTok announced Tuesday it plans to hire 10,000 staff in the U.S. over the next three years, despite a possible ban for the Chinese-owned app. 

As TikTok’s popularity has soared, the number of full-time TikTok employees in the U.S. has gone from under 500 at the start of the year to almost 1,400 today.

“In 2020, TikTok tripled the number of employees working in the U.S., and we plan to add another 10,000 jobs here over the next three years,” a TikTok spokesperson told CNBC.

These are good-paying jobs that will help us continue to build a fun and safe experience and protect our community’s privacy.” 

Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, which owns TikTok, said in March that it hopes to have 100,000 employees by the end of 2020. By comparison, at the end of 2019, Facebook had 44,942, Google had 118,899, and Alibaba had 116,519. 

“They (ByteDance) committed to 100,000 global staff several months ago so it’s in line with what they’ve already been saying,” Matthew Brennan, a China-based social media analyst, told CNBC. 

The U.S. is clamping down on Chinese technology companies like never before as tensions rise between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. says President Xi Jinping’s communist government could use hardware and software developed by Chinese tech firms for espionage purposes.

Huawei has been the number one target so far, with the Trump administration banning Huawei’s telecoms equipment from U.S. networks and imposing strict sanctions on the company that threaten to damage its business in other countries too. Huawei denies all the allegations.

It looks like TikTok could be the next target. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is now “looking at” banning TikTok

The U.S. government has launched a national security review of ByteDance’s acquisition of the Musical.ly app, which was merged into TikTok, Reuters reported in November. The U.S. government is reportedly concerned that ByteDance may be censoring politically-sensitive content and it’s worried about how user data is stored.

Despite the moves, TikTok says it intends to continue expanding in the U.S. 

Timothy Armoo, chief executive of Fanbytes, a company that helps brands advertise through social video, told CNBC that TikTok is trying to show policymakers that it is a direct employer of U.S. jobs. “The more they can be seen as an American employer, the better,” he said. 

Armoo believes TikTok has become “too much of a phenomenon in the western world” for it to be banned. 

In a bid to distance itself from ByteDance and Beijing, TikTok hired an American CEO in May in the form of Kevin Mayer, Disney‘s former head of streaming. 

TikTok’s largest U.S. offices are in California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Key areas for TikTok in the U.S. include sales, moderation, engineering and content moderation. 

In May, TikTok reportedly signed a lease on a 232,000 square feet office at One Five One, previously known as Four Times Square. At the time, the deal was reportedly the first big Manhattan office lease of the pandemic. 

TikTok is currently trying to decide where to put its international headquarters. The company’s largest office is in Los Angeles but London, Dublin and Singapore have also been touted as possible HQ locations. 

The Sunday Times newspaper reported over the weekend that TikTok had “shelved” plans to set up a global HQ in Britain that would create up to 3,000 jobs. The report said talks between the U.K. government and ByteDance had been “paused” because of the “wider geopolitical context.”

However, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC that London is still being considered as an option. 

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