TikTok CEO pledges $2.7b in 2024 to protect 170m users in US

WASHINGTON – TikTok will pledge to spend US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) in 2024 on protecting children and other viewers on the video service, as it crosses 170 million monthly active users in the United States.

Chief executive Shou Chew plans to unveil that plan during a testimony before the Senate judiciary committee on Jan 31, joining counterparts from Meta Platforms, X, Snap and Discord at a hearing focused on examining what social media firms are doing to safeguard youths online.

Mr Chew intends to say the company will spend more than US$2 billion in 2024 on trust and safety globally, via a team of more than 40,000 people working on those efforts, according to prepared testimony reviewed by Bloomberg News.

The disclosure underscores the ByteDance unit’s rapid growth in the US, and its ability to draw both people and advertising dollars away from rivals Facebook, Instagram and Alphabet’s Google.

Its users in the US, which Mr Chew says are on average more than 30 years old, are up sharply from more than 150 million in 2023.

It’s Mr Chew’s second time testifying before Congress. In 2023, he was called to a hearing in the House focused on the potential national security threats stemming from its Chinese ownership.

This time, he will share the witness table with some of his closest competitors in the industry.

Mr Chew also plans to highlight a number of policies regarding teen users that he says are unique to TikTok.

For example, users under the age of 16 cannot send messages on the app, and their videos cannot be downloaded or recommended to people they are not already connected to. Those aged 17 and younger have a pre-set screen limit of 60 minutes before a password is required to continue watching.

When it comes to potential sexually explicit images of children, TikTok uses technology to review public content for prohibited material, according to the testimony.

Direct messages are moderated using third-party tools like PhotoDNA and Take It Down, Mr Chew intends to say. BLOOMBERG

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