- TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer announced his departure from the company.
- In a letter to employees, he cited the current political climate as a factor and explained that his role as CEO would change after TikTok is sold to a US-based company.
- Mayer has only been on the job for about three months and was used by TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, as evidence that the video-sharing app doesn’t answer to China.
- As for the sale of TikTok, talks between ByteDance and American companies are still ongoing. There are reportedly two major joint bids for the app between Microsoft-Walmart and Oracle-Softbank.
Kevin Mayer Announces Exit
TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer announced in an internal statement late Wednesday that he will be leaving the company after only three months on the job.
In a letter to staff, Mayer said that the current political climate was a factor in his decision, as well as how the corporate structure of TikTok would look after a sale to an American company.
Mayer joined TikTok after leaving Disney+, and in his letter, he emphasized that he initially joined TikTok was because it was a global brand.
“I’ve always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok U.S. was a big draw for me,” he wrote.
“I understand that the role that I signed up for—including running TikTok globally—will look very different as a result of the U.S. administration’s action to push for a selloff of the U.S. business.”
It’s speculated that TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is in talks to sell the American, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand parts of the app to a U.S.-based company; which may not be global enough for Mayer.
The Wall Street Journal also reported Mayer has other issues with the company, although it’s doubted they played a major role in his decision to leave. Notably, these smaller issues stem from TikTok’s startup nature, such as an emphasis on using instant messaging or face-to-face conversation to resolve issues rather than email.
The news of Mayers departure has been a shock ByteDance. Zhang YiMing, the founder and chairman of ByteDance, sent an email to TikTok staff thanking Mayer for his work and reassured employees that TikTok was “moving quickly to find resolutions to the issues that we face globally, particularly in the U.S. and India.”
Meanwhile, a representative for TikTok said, “We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin’s role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision.”
Mayer was important for the company in more than just a business sense. As an American, ByteDance would use him as ‘proof’ against U.S. government allegations that TikTok was being controlled by China.
Even with his soon-to-be departure, TikTok still won’t have a Chinese national in charge of the company for the time being. Mayer wrote that after he steps down, General Manager Vanessa Pappas, a former YouTube exec, will be in charge until the company finds a new CEO.
As of now, it’s currently unclear when Mayer will actually leave TikTok.
Regarding the company being sold, Mayer did say that he expected “a resolution to be reached very soon….” However, most expect this to be the case because if TikTok isn’t sold before the Trump administration’s September 15 deadline, it will be banned in the U.S.
TikTok said to be is in talks with Microsoft over a purchase, although details about how that will look continue to shift. Hours after Mayer submitted his resignation letter, CNBC reported that Microsoft was working out a joint deal for a Microsoft-Walmart bid on the app.
Such a deal could have its own complications since Walmart has a significant presence in China, which the Trump administration has been trying to avoid.
Yet a joint bid may be necessary because they face a competition between an Oracle and Softbank bid.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Axios) (Reuters)
Schools Across the U.S. Cancel Classes Friday Over Unverified TikTok Threat
Officials in multiple states said they haven’t found any credible threats but are taking additional precautions out of an abundance of safety.
Schools in no fewer than 10 states either canceled classes or increased their police presence on Friday after a series of TikToks warned of imminent shooting and bombs threats.
Despite that, officials said they found little evidence to suggest the threats are credible. It’s possible no real threat was actually ever made as it’s unclear if the supposed threats originated on TikTok, another social media platform, or elsewhere.
“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” TikTok’s Communications team tweeted Thursday afternoon.
Still, given the uptick of school shootings in the U.S. in recent years, many school districts across the country decided to respond to the rumors. According to The Verge, some districts in California, Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas shut down Friday.
“Based on law enforcement interviews, Little Falls Community Schools was specifically identified in a TikTok post related to this threat,” one school district in Minnesota said in a letter Thursday. “In conversations with local law enforcement, the origins of this threat remain unknown. Therefore, school throughout the district is canceled tomorrow, Friday, December 17.”
In Gilroy, California, one high school that closed its doors Friday said it would reschedule final exams that were expected to take place the same day to January.
According to the Associated Press, several other districts in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania stationed more police officers at their schools Friday.
Viral Misinformation or Legitimate Warnings?
As The Verge notes, “The reports of threats on TikTok may be self-perpetuating.”
For example, many of the videos online may have been created in response to initial warnings as more people hopped onto the trend. Amid school cancellations, videos have continued to sprout up — many awash with both rumors and factual information.
“I’m scared off my ass, what do I do???” one TikTok user said in a now-deleted video, according to People.
“The post is vague and not directed at a specific school, and is circulating around school districts across the country,” Chicago Public Schools said in a letter, though it did not identify any specific post. “Please do not re-share any suspicious or concerning posts on social media.”
According to Dr. Amy Klinger, the director of programs for the nonprofit Educator’s School Safety Network, “This is not 2021 phenomenon.”
Instead, she told The Today Show that her network has been tracking school shooting threats since 2013, and she noted that in recent years, they’ve become more prominent on social media.
“It’s not just somebody in a classroom of 15 people hearing someone make a threat,” she said. “It’s 15,000 people on social media, because it gets passed around and it becomes larger and larger and larger.”
Jake Paul Says He “Can’t Get Cancelled” as a Boxer
The controversial YouTuber opened up about what it has been like to go from online fame to professional boxing.
The New Yorker Profiles Jake Paul
YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul talked about his career switch, reputation, and cancel culture in a profile published Monday in The New Yorker.
While Paul rose to fame as the Internet’s troublemaker, he now spends most of his time in the ring. He told the outlet that one difference between YouTube and boxing is that his often controversial reputation lends better to his new career.
“One thing that is great about being a fighter is, like, you can’t get cancelled,” Paul said. The profile noted that the sport often rewards and even encourages some degree of bad behavior.
“I’m not a saint,” Paul later continued. “I’m also not a bad guy, but I can very easily play the role.”
Paul also said the other difference between his time online and his time in boxing is the level of work. While he says he trains hard, he confessed that there was something more challenging about making regular YouTube content.
“Being an influencer was almost harder than being a boxer,” he told The New Yorker. “You wake up in the morning and you’re, like, Damn, I have to create fifteen minutes of amazing content, and I have twelve hours of sunlight.”
Jake Paul Vs. Tommy Fury
The New Yorker profile came just after it was announced over the weekend Paul will be fighting boxer Tommy Fury in an 8-round cruiserweight fight on Showtime in December.
“It’s time to kiss ur last name and ur family’s boxing legacy goodbye,” Paul tweeted. “DEC 18th I’m changing this wankers name to Tommy Fumbles and celebrating with Tom Brady.”
Both Paul and Fury are undefeated, according to ESPN. Like Paul, Fury has found fame outside of the sport. He has become a reality TV star in the U.K. after appearing on the hit show “Love Island.”
See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (Dexerto) (ESPN)
Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos
The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.
Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws.
For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform.
The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.
It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end.
The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions.
First Twitch Hack
Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.
That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019.
It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.
Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already.