Hot on the heels of his US congressional testimony, TikTok CEO Shou Chew sat down with head of TED Chris Anderson at Session 10 of TED2023 Thursday to discuss the roots of TikTok: what it does, how it works and what it’s doing to protect its users.
Chew reaffirmed his platform’s dedication to offering creativity, inspiration and fun to millions, highlighting some of his favorite creators around the world whose lives have been transformed by their videos going viral. TikTok’s revolutionary interest-predicting algorithm is a simple matter of math, said Chew, showing videos to users based not on subjects or social networks but instead on content others with similar likes have also enjoyed. In this way, anyone can have their videos can be surfaced, irrespective of their status in the real world.
Diving into some thornier issues, Chew addressed the privacy concerns that have led many in the United States to call for the app’s ban. Far from being a potential data gold mine for the Chinese government, Chew said, all new information on US users harvested by TikTok is housed in servers within the US — although he admits it will take the rest of 2023 to delete old data stored in servers elsewhere.
Meanwhile, TikTok continues to prioritize safety, particularly for its youngest users, said Chew. Access to sensitive material and certain features of the app are limited depending on the user’s age, while all content is moderated by both AI and a staff of 10,000 humans. Chew also stressed TikTok’s commitment to nurturing a healthy relationship between users and the app — despite its seemingly addictive design — by the inclusion of gentle suggestions to reduce screen time after a certain amount of use.