ByteDance pushing TikTok users to new Lemon8 app as ban looms

NEWS: ByteDance pushing TikTok users to new Lemon8 app as ban looms



TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is paying influencers to push its other social media platform Lemon8 — as the Senate considers banning the video-sharing giant.

The Chinese giant faces either being forced to divest itself of TikTok or have the app banned entirely if a bill passed by the House this month is also passed by the Senate.

Now it is paying TikTok influencers to push Lemon8, an Instagram-clone which features “inspirational” posts about food, beauty, wellness, and travel, The Post has learned.

ByteDance’s Lemon8 is described as similar to Pinterest. Users can post inspirational photos or look for travel, food, makeup, and fashion inspiration — but TikTokers are now being paid to promote it to users.

Sources familiar with the legislation passed by the House said the move could be an attempt by ByteDance to get round a future ban on TikTok by having a heavily-trafficked alternative owned by the Chinese company up and running.

One influencer who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Post that shortly after the House passed the bill aiming to ban the popular video platform, she was offered $200 to upload a video that promotes Lemon8 on TikTok.

Ultimately, she said it wasn’t enough money for her to promote something she doesn’t actually use. 

ByteDance did not respond to requests for comment.

Influencer Braonain1, who has 362,700 followers on TikTok, acknowledged to The Post she is working with ByteDance to build a following on Lemon8 where she has just 66 followers.

This is the moment the House passed a TikTok ban overwhelmingly. It is now up to the Senate whether it moves on the legislation. But The Post has learned TikTok’s parent company ByteDance may be moving to keep an app in US use. REUTERS

Last week she posted a video saying the Instagram-like platform was a godsend when she moved to London two years ago at 20, writing, “I had no idea what there was to do here.”

“I went on Lemon8 to find things to do in London and created a bucket list… found a community of other individuals doing the same thing as me and I learned so many tips and tricks along the way,” she posted of her experience. “Follow me on Lemon8.”

“Braonain1” or Brenna says she relied on Lemon8 to get acclimated to London when she moved to England two years ago. While she has amassed over 300,000 followers on TikTok she has just 66 followers on Lemon8.
Brenna used Lemon8 to meet people in London and document her travels there. braonain1/TikTok

In the last week alone, nearly a dozen other TikTok influencers have posted videos promoting Lemon8 that include a link to download the app. It’s unclear if ByteDance paid them for their posts.

One creator, who uses the handle “its Alysssa Stevenss,” and has 174,700 followers on TikTok posted, “I found an app for the girlies… if you’re a girlie keep watching.”  

“Lemon8 is the destination for sharing and exploring… there is something for everyone on Lemon8,” she added.

Rayleen Vega who has 207,300 followers on TikTok and just one follower on Lemon8 posted, “My obsession has been this new app Lemon8… I freaking love it.”

Likewise Kolby Shae with 755,600 TikTok followers and 8 Lemon8 followers mentions, “I always use my Lemon8 app to help me style [my hair].”

One influencer with 5.5 million followers, whose handle is @SignaMae, casually mentioned she uses Lemon8 in a TikTok tutorial where she tries black eyeshadow. Sig/Tiktok
TikTok influencer whose handle is @itsAlysssaStevenss posted a glowing video about Lemon8 and said it “is the destination for sharing and exploring.” itsalyssastevenss/tiktok

None of the creators responded to requests for comment.

The bill — Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications — is crafted to force a divestiture of TikTok and names the app as an example of a threat to American security.

It directly names ByteDance as a foreign-adversary controlled company and says any “successor application” to TikTok as well as “any other application or service developed or provided by ByteDance” would need to be divested.

However, some policy experts told The Post there are loopholes in the bill that ByteDance could use to try to avoid a ban.

“The law is still open to interpretation at this point,” one source who helped craft the law in the House told The Post. “The bill was drafted to go after TikTok… beyond that there could be exceptions.”

Among the loopholes are a requirement that apps have more than 1 million average users before they can be acted against. Lemon8 appears to be well under that figure.

A TikTok creator who uses the handle @RayleenVega said she “freaking loves” Lemon8.
TikToker @KolbyShae said she “always” uses Lemon8 to style her hair. kolbyshae/TikTok

Research from SimilarWeb in July last year found it had just 6,360 active daily users.

Tom Grant, vice president of research for traffic analyst Apptopia said the app has been growing in recent, including 19% in March so far, with usage accelerating in the US but decelerating elsewhere — an indication that ByteDance’s campaign could be working.

Last June ByteDance appointed TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew as head of Lemon8 in an effort to find more synergy between the two apps.

But on the Apple and Google app stores, Lemon8 says its developer is Heliophilia, a private company in Singapore that shares headquarters with the ByteDance Singapore office, which could also help Lemon8 frame itself as not being owned by a “foreign adversary.”

TikTok is explicitly named in the bill as an example of an app that needs to be banned.

“Anything TikTok can do from within those boundaries is a victory. If they can grow Lemon8 using this crisis, it’s a win,” one attorney with knowledge of the situation told The Post.

“It’s like they’re creating the framing for their argument that this is only about TikTok, because the same company is telling their users that the other app is perfectly fine to continue to use.”

Jacob Helberg, senior policy advisor to software company Palantir, told The Post that while there are “different prongs and criteria” to what gets banned, the ban in its current form “would apply to an app like Lemon8.”

But until the bill is signed into law, he said, “ByteDance is still trying to kill the bill.”



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