December 6, 2019

TikTok’s Chief Is on a Mission to Prove It’s Not a Menace

In late 2017, Musical.ly agreed to be taken over by ByteDance. Last year, the Musical.ly app was merged into TikTok.

Mr. Zhu stayed to help with the transition. He then took a few months off last year to rest, go clubbing in Shanghai and listen to jazz. He rejoined TikTok early this year, not long after ByteDance raised funding at a valuation of around $75 billion, making it one of the planet’s most richly valued start-ups.

TikTok surely owes some of its success to the sunny, fun-for-its-own-sake vibe it has cultivated. But that has led to suspicions that TikTok suppresses material, such as clips of the Hong Kong protests, that could be a buzzkill. The company says it previously penalized content that “promoted conflict.”

Now “we don’t take any action on any politically sensitive content as long as it goes along with our community guidelines,” said Vanessa Pappas, general manager for TikTok in the United States. Those cover things like hate speech, harassment and misleading information.

Mr. Zhu said TikTok, which makes money by selling ads, was still drawing up its content policies.

“Today, we are lucky,” he said, “because users perceive TikTok as a platform for memes, for lip-syncing, for dancing, for fashion, for animals — but not so much for political discussion.”

He acknowledged this could change. “For political content that still aligns with this creative and joyful experience, I don’t see why we should control it,” he said.

The deeper concern is that ByteDance’s vast business in China could give Beijing leverage over the company, and over TikTok. In its brief existence, ByteDance has had plenty of run-ins with Chinese authorities. This month, regulators hauled up company executives after finding search results from ByteDance’s search engine that supposedly defamed a revolutionary hero.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/18/technology/tiktok-alex-zhu-interview.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

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