TikTok Competitor BIGO to Relocate Its Hong Kong Servers in Singapore to Escape Crossfire

(Source: Caiwei Chen/Pandaily)

The Chinese short video service company BIGO, backed by live-streaming entertainment behemoth JOYY, is moving its servers from Hong Kong to Singapore in order to emphasize its independence from its Chinese parent company. The decision comes as its competitor TikTok is caught in an international crossfire regarding its information security and Hong Kong passed the National Security Law enabling tighter control from the CPC, Reuters reported today.

BIGO’s move also takes place after its own live-streaming app Bigo Live and short video app Likee were banned by the Indian government amidst mounting geopolitical tension between India and China, which has centred upon a deadly border confrontation in June. At the same time, Chinese platforms including ByteDance’s TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat are faced with increasing scrutiny in the US as President Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok and other Chinese companies over alleged national security risks.

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BIGO was originally a Singaporean company founded in 2014 by David Li before being acquired by Chinese company JOYY (formerly known as YY). JOYY’s financial results in the second quarter of 2020 suggest that 91% of its active users are from overseas markets. Bigo Live and Likee, in particular, are highly popular in the Indian and southeast Asian markets.

BIGO has not yet been named by US authorities. According to Reuters, a JOYY company executive said the firm aims to “not get caught in the crossfire”. Mike Ong, JOYY’s vice president of government relations, said in a 2014 interview that “the unfortunate thing is sometimes we can’t control what other people think”.

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On Aug. 13, JOYY released its unaudited financial results for the second quarter of 2020, which ended June 30. Due to widespread stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the global average monthly active users of JOYY products on mobile devices increased by 21.0% year-on-year to 457.1 million in Q2, 91% of which came from overseas markets. Among them, the monthly active users of Bigo Live reached 29.4 million, up 41.3% year-on-year. Meanwhile, Likee’s average monthly mobile active users increased 86.2% year-on-year to 150.3 million.

JOYY Inc. was founded in April 2005 and listed on NASDAQ in 2012. In March 2019, JOYY acquired BIGO at a valuation of about $2.2 billion. The company’s core products now include YY, BIGO LIVE, Likee and HAGO. David Xueling Li, CEO of JOYY, is also a cofounder of BIGO.