ByteDance expands responsibility of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to include its Instagram rival Lemon8 (report)
Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok who was grilled at a hearing in front of US lawmakers earlier this year, is reportedly being given an additional new job by parent company ByteDance.
According to a report at The Information published on Tuesday (May 30), ByteDance is putting another of its apps, Lemon8, “under Chew’s supervision”.
Citing “a person with direct knowledge of the matter,” The Information says the current head of Lemon8, Stephanie Cheng, will now report to Chew, who is based in Singapore.
Lemon8 was officially rolled out in the United States earlier this year, though it has been around in some other markets, such as Japan, since 2020. According to a New York Times report, ByteDance hired influencers this year to spread the word about the new app.
Lemon8 is focused on lifestyle, with its top trending topics typically being food, beauty, fashion, travel and wellness. Some speculate the app is meant to compete with Meta-owned Instagram.
If so, Lemon8 has its work cut out for it. Bloomberg reported in October that Instagram has around 2 billion monthly active users worldwide.
Lemon8 has had an estimated 17.3 million downloads worldwide since its 2020 launch – although it has seen fast adoption in the US this spring, clocking one million downloads in a two-week period from March to April, according to Insider Intelligence.
Lemon8’s user base is also a tiny fraction of TikTok users, of which there are an estimated 1.6 billion worldwide and a confirmed 150 million in the US.
However, others speculate that Lemon8 might actually be a replacement for TikTok, should the app be banned in the US or other Western countries, as some politicians have called for.
At a congressional hearing in March, Chew faced four-and-a-half hours of questioning by both Democrat and Republican lawmakers, who grilled him on the company’s information-sharing practices.
Chew stressed TikTok’s “Operation Texas,” an ongoing project to shift US users’ data from servers in China to servers in Texas supervised by Oracle. However, he admitted that the Texas facility is not yet fully operational, and some ByteDance engineers in China do have access to US user data.
Earlier this month, Montana became the first US state to sign into law an outright ban on TikTok, from January 1, 2024. Under this law, app stores that offer TikTok to users in Montana could be fined $10,000 for every day that the app is available. Users of TikTok don’t face penalties under this law.
TikTok has taken legal action against the state of Montana after Governor Greg Gianforte signed the bill banning the popular short-form video app.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”
Brooke Oberwetter, TikTok
Many legal experts have questioned the law’s validity. For one thing, it’s unusual for a law to single out a single company for a ban. Typically, laws ban certain types of business, or ban businesses from engaging certain activities, while Montana’s law expressly targets TikTok.
There is also a question of whether Montana has jurisdiction in this matter, as the law states it is meant to protect “national security,” which in most cases is a matter for the federal government.
For its part, TikTok has called the law “unlawful,” and has vowed to fight it as a violation of the free speech rights of Montanans.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said.Music Business Worldwide