TikTok parent ByteDance said to raise $1.45 billion for AI and content

ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the immensely popular video app TikTok, is in talks to raise $1.45 billion for a new fund, The Information reported on Friday, citing sources.

The fresh vehicle will help power artificial intelligence and media content for the $75 billion startup, which reportedly leapfrogged Uber’s valuation after raising $3 billion in October.

ByteDance declined to comment on the matter.

The Chinese startup has set off an aggressive global expansion that sees it merge teen video app Musical.ly into TikTok, which has 100 million and 500 million users, respectively. The upstart has compelled Tencent to up the ante in short videos and Facebook to make a clone.

By 2021, ByteDance aims to count at least 50 percent of its total users from overseas, its founder and chief executive officer Zhang Yiming said during a speech in June.

In China, a fold of ByteDance’s media products — ranging from short-video platforms, a news portal to a humor app — have been in hot water with media watchdogs who are tightening control over online content. The harshest punishment arrived when the government shuttered Neihan Duanzi, literally meaning “implied jokes” in Chinese, for charges of propagating “vulgar content.”

The Beijing-based media company is seeking capital from government-led funds and state-owned investment banks for its new venture fund, according to The Information.

The gesture could help six-year-old ByteDance navigate relationships with local authorities. Meanwhile, it has already hired thousands of censors to ensure its content does not deviate from China’s official guidelines, though the startup has long prided itself on its AI prowess to make personalized recommendations to users.