Snap CEO Evan Spiegel on TikTok ban: ‘We’d love to’

At Snap Partner Summit, one thing is clear: the company is doing everything it can to engage its Gen Z user base and keep them on the platform. Like literally every other social media app, Snapchat responded to the pressure of TikTok’s massive growth by rolling out its own short-form video feeds and creator program. But as US lawmakers debate an outright ban on the TikTok app, it’s no surprise that the ban is a boon for companies like Snap and Meta, which appear to be most threatened by TikTok’s popularity.

When asked by journalist Kara Swisher if Snap CEO Evan Spiegel thinks there should be a ban on TikTok, he replied: “We’d love to.” The crowd responded to the bold comment with cheers and cheers. Hey, at least Spiegel is being honest.

But Spiegel also recognized the dangerous precedent for other social platforms if Congress succeeded in banning TikTok. TikTok is in a unique situation due to its Chinese ownership, which has proven problematic for the company’s reputation among US government officials.

“It’s important that we be thoughtful and really develop a regulatory framework to address security concerns, especially around technology,” Spiegel said onstage. “I believe that, based on the information that is publicly available, there are legitimate national security concerns well above my salary level.”

There is still no evidence that Chinese government officials access the data of American TikTok users, but ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, has.

Snapchat Spotlight, Snap’s TikTok competitor, now has 350 million monthly users, which is still behind competitors like TikTok, which eclipsed 1 billion monthly users in 2021, and YouTube Shorts, which reports 1.5 billion viewers. registered monthly. But, as revealed at the Partner Summit, Snap continues to invest heavily in AR and AI experiences to differentiate itself.

The platform emphasizes how AR technology can help boost retail sales online and in person, as consumers can use AR to try on clothes and accessories (but the technology isn’t yet sophisticated enough to help you see how different clothes fit together). sizes on your body, which makes a good old-fashioned dressing room still feel necessary). TikTok hasn’t been very successful in e-commerce in the West, so Snap’s shopping-specific AR products could make it more appealing to both brand partners and consumers.

Snap moves fast, but its fast pace comes at a price, and the company is no stranger to security scandals. When it comes to AI, Snap has to be cautious. If government regulators are worried about teens having TikTok in their pockets, what risks does it pose if every Snapchatter now has an in-app AI chatbot at their fingertips?

“I think that humans, whenever we come across a new technology, the first thing we try to do is break it,” Spiegel said.

In his keynote, Spiegel said that 99.5% of My AI responses meet community guidelines, but it’s easy to see how that 0.5% could get very tricky. The text chatbot is available to all Snapchat users, but Snapchat+ subscribers can send photos to an AI chatbot, which will respond with their own photos. An example provided by Snap showed a user sending My AI a photo of a tomato plant, and the AI ​​responded with a suggestion for a tomato soup recipe.

TechCrunch asked a Snap employee working on My AI what would happen if, for example, a Snapchatter tried to send nude photos to My AI. The employee said that the AI ​​is designed not to respond in kind, and instead tell the user that they will not interact with that type of content. But in apps like Lensa AI, it was too easy to trick the program into generating NSFW content. We’ll see how that plays out on Snapchat.

Remember what Spiegel said: People love to push the limits of new technologies.

Learn more about Snap Partner Summit 2023

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