Snap CEO Evan Spiegel on banning TikTok: ‘We’d like that’
At the Snap Partner Summit, one thing is clear: the company is doing everything it can to win over its Gen Z user base and keep them on the platform. Like literally every other social media app, Snapchat has responded to the pressure of TikTok’s massive growth by rolling out its own shortened video feed and creative program. But as U.S. lawmakers debate a total ban on the TikTok app, it’s no surprise the ban is a boon for companies like Snap and Meta, which appear to be most at risk from TikTok’s popularity. .
When journalist Kara Swisher asked Snap CEO Evan Spiegel if he thought there should be a TikTok ban, he replied, “We’d like that.” The crowd responded to the bold comment with cheers and whoops — hey, at least Spiegel is being honest.
But Spiegel also acknowledged the dangerous precedent for other social platforms if Congress does succeed in banning TikTok. TikTok is in a unique situation due to its Chinese ownership, which has proven problematic for the company’s reputation with US government officials.
“It’s important for us to be thoughtful and really develop a regulatory framework to deal with security issues, especially around technology,” Spiegel said on stage. “I believe that based on publicly available information, there are legitimate national security concerns well above my pay grade.”
There’s still no evidence that Chinese government officials are accessing US TikTok user data, but ByteDance – TikTok’s Chinese parent company – did.
Snapchat Spotlight, Snap’s TikTok competitor, now has 350 million monthly users, which remains behind rivals like TikTok, which eclipsed 1 billion monthly users in 2021, and YouTube Shorts, which brings in 1.5 billion. connected monthly viewers. But, as revealed at Partner Summit, Snap continues to invest heavily in AR and AI experiences to differentiate itself.
The platform focuses on how AR technology can help drive online and in-person retail sales, since consumers can use AR to try on clothes and accessories (but the technology is not yet sophisticated enough to help you see how different sizes will fit on your body, which makes a good old-fashioned dressing room always seem necessary). TikTok hasn’t had much success in e-commerce in the West, so Snap’s shopping-specific AR products could make it more appealing to brand partners and consumers alike.
Snap moves fast, but its quick pace comes at a price, and the company is no stranger to security scandals. When it comes to AI, Snap needs to be careful. If government regulators are worried about teens having TikTok in their pocket, what risks does it pose that now all Snapchatters have an AI chatbot built in at their fingertips?
“I think humans, whenever we encounter new technology, the first thing we try to do is break it,” Spiegel said.
In his speech, 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 messy. The text chatbot is available to all Snapchat users, but Snapchat+ subscribers can send photos to an AI chatbot, which will respond with its 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 tomato soup recipe suggestion.
TechCrunch asked a Snap employee who worked 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, but rather to tell the user that it will not engage with this type of content. But on apps like Lensa AI, it proved too easy to trick the program into generating NSFW content. We’ll see how it goes on Snapchat.
Remember what Spiegel said: People like to push the boundaries of new technologies.
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