TikTok, the hugely popular video-sharing social media platform, is to invest $500 million (€420 million) in a data centre in Ireland and create "hundreds of jobs" locally.
The company, which is in talks with Microsoft to sell its US operations, said the facility would be where European users' data would be stored. It did not disclose where the data centre will be located or the exact number of new roles.
"This is a demonstration of our commitment for the long term in Europe and this is also about cementing the important role that Ireland plays for TikTok," Theo Bertram, the company's head of public policy for Europe, told The Irish Times.
“Dublin is really important for us and is going to grow rapidly,” he added.
TikTok employs more than 1,000 people in Europe, with over 800 based in Britain and Ireland. The company has been quietly expanding its presence in Dublin in recent months as speculation mounts that its Chinese parent ByteDance might decide to locate its European headquarters here.
While London was believed to be the most likely destination for the company, doubt has been cast over this after the British government opted to ban Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from any future involvement in its 5G infrastructure.
In January, the company announced it was establishing a “trust and safety” hub in Dublin with plans to recruit 100 employees by the end of 2020. Before it announced the new data centre, it was already expected to surpass this initial figure following a decision in late June to move privacy oversight of its European users to the Republic.
TikTok did not disclose in which areas the new roles would be, although most are expected to be in the area of data security and user safety, including content moderation.
Mr Bertram said TikTok regarded Ireland as playing a central role for the company in “guarding safety and security”, which he said was its leading priority.
He dismissed criticism that tech companies are focusing their data privacy efforts in Dublin because of a perception that they will get an easier time of it here than in other jurisdictions. The Data Protection Commissioner, which has a large number of ongoing investigations into such companies, has been under fire for being unable to conclude any to date.
“There are lots of reasons to come to Dublin, our prime reason being access to a great talent pool,” he said.
Mr Bertram also said no decision had been taken yet as to where the group might locate its headquarters, with the company “considering a number of places”.
Microsoft on Sunday confirmed it was in talks with ByteDance about potentially acquiring TikTok's US operations as well as its businesses in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The move comes after president Donald Trump threatened to ban TikTok on security grounds due to its Chinese parent. While initially indicating that an acquisition of the US operations would not be allowed, he has since indicated a deal could go through providing the US Treasury gets a cut from the deal.
TikTok is available in more than 150 countries and has over one billion users globally, including an estimated 80 million daily users in the US.