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ByteDance’s top AI scientist resigns amid TikTok’s global setbacks

Wei-Ying Ma will join an institute being founded by Baidu’s former president Zhang Yaqin inside the Tsinghua University.

Photo:Stock.tuchong.com

ByteDance, best known for its app TikTok, confirmed with KrASIA on Tuesday that Wei-Ying Ma, who headed its AI Lab, is leaving.

Established in 2016, the AI Lab is fundamental to ByteDance’s mission to redefine the ways humans connect and share information, according to the lab’s website. The lab has also helped ByteDance build its content platforms, including content aggregator Jinri Toutiao, and short video apps Douyin and TikTok.

“We are extremely grateful to Wei-Ying for his important contribution to ByteDance,” a ByteDance spokesperson told KrASIA, without elaborating further. Ma held the position of VP of ByteDance, AI Lab since February 2017.

Ma will join an intelligence research institute at Tsinghua University, which is still being founded by former Baidu president Zhang Yaqin and is not operational now, Chinese media outlet 36Kr has learned.

“Based on his personal interest, Ma has decided to teach and educate in Tsinghua University, while remaining as a technological consultant for ByteDance,” the company told 36Kr. Ma has been a guest professor for National Taiwan University since 2008, according to his personal Linkedin account.

Ma’s resignation comes at a time when the company’s short video app TikTok faces headwinds globally. The United States are considering a ban on TikTok, after the app got banned in India in late June. Before him, senior vice president Liu Zhen also left ByteDance.

Read More: From Uber to TikTok: Liu Zhen, the woman behind ByteDance’s rise

According to 36Kr, Ma joined Bytedance in February 2017 with a key task to break through the limitations of machine intelligence. Prior to joining ByteDance, Ma served Microsoft Research Asia for nearly 16 years, with his last role there being an assistant managing director.

“We are directly responsible for critical products and services and participate in finding solutions to the challenges we face as an enterprise,” the lab says on its website.

Under Ma’s leadership, ByteDance’s AI Lab has grown from five researchers in 2016 to 150 by the end of 2018, according to 36Kr.

While leading ByteDance’s AI lab, Ma himself has been included in the 2020 annual ranking of the top 1,000 global scientists in the area of computer science and electronics released by Guide2Research, based on indicators including Google Scholar H-index and citations. He is ranked second among all Chinese scientists in this ranking.

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