TikTok CEO Speaks at TED, First Time Since Hearing at Congress

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew gave his first public interview since a contentious congressional hearing in March at the TED2023 “Possibility” conference in Vancouver. Chew reiterated ways in which the app is addressing public criticisms and stated that TikTok is important for offering a platform for ordinary people to be discovered. He also spoke about entrepreneurship, artificial intelligence, and society’s relationship with social media. However, the interview lacked any discussion of the looming bans on TikTok in the US, with various states having already passed legislation banning the app on government devices, and over half of US states considering similar bills. There are around a half-dozen other bills currently in Congress that could result in a national ban on the app. While some Democrats have spoken out against further banning the app, nearly every Republican is supportive of a national ban. The federal government has called for a forced spinoff of TikTok’s US business. Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU oppose the bans on First Amendment grounds, but polls show that a majority of Americans support a ban. Chew also addressed concerns around Chinese propaganda, data privacy, and data access, stating that the company would allow third-party scrutiny of its source code and was localising American data to be stored on American soil by an American company overseen by American personnel to protect American data in unprecedented ways. The stakes for TikTok’s future remain high, with many predicting that bans are around the corner, increasing pressure on the company to address concerns around security, privacy, and censorship.

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