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TikTok plans to spend billions in Southeast Asia despite rising concerns over user data privacy.

ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns the popular short video app TikTok, announced on Thursday that it would invest billions of dollars in Southeast Asia over the next several years as part of a strategy to double down on the area in the face of increasing worldwide scrutiny over its data security.

More than 325 million unique users access TikTok each month from Southeast Asia, a region with a total population of 630 million, half of whom are under the age of 30.

However, due to the presence of more established competitors like as Sea’s Shopee, Alibaba’s Lazada, and GoTo’s Tokopedia, the platform has been unable to convert its massive user base into a significant e-commerce income source in the region.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew announced plans to invest $1 billion over the next few years in Indonesia and Southeast Asia at a meeting held in Jakarta to discuss the app’s positive social and economic impact there.

TikTok would not disclose its budget in full, but the company said say it would put money on onboarding, training, and promoting small businesses on its e-commerce platform, TikTok Shop.

As Chew grows in popularity and incorporates features like in-app shopping and livestreaming, the variety of material available on its platform is expected to increase.

He also mentioned that Indonesia, the region’s largest economy, is home to 2 million small sellers using the TikTok platform to sell their items.

Consultancy Momentum Works reports that regional e-commerce sales hit nearly $100 billion in 2017, with Indonesia contributing $52 billion.

Momentum Works estimates that Shopee’s $48 billion in regional product sales in 2022 greatly outpaced the $4.4 billion in transactions that TikTok facilitated across Southeast Asia last year.

In light of fears that Beijing may exploit the app to gather user data or advance its objectives, TikTok’s investment plan comes at a time when the Chinese-owned company is under scrutiny from several governments and regulators.

TikTok has indicated that it believes countries banning the app on government phones are doing so because to “fundamental misconceptions” and larger geopolitical motives.

TikTok has disputed rumors that it has given user data with the Chinese government and has stated that it will not comply with such requests in the future.

In Southeast Asia, the app has not been banned from government devices, but its content has come under investigation.

Shortly into 2018, Indonesian authorities offered one of the first major global policy issues by temporarily banning TikTok due to posts they said featured “inappropriate content, and blasphemy.”

A Vietnamese government agency has announced plans to investigate TikTok in the country due to concerns that the platform’s “toxic” content endangers the country’s “youth, culture, and tradition.”

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