The man who was supposed to save TikTok from banning leaves TikTok

Appointed in December 2022 by TikTok to lead its future independent subsidiary in the United States, Eric Han has decided to leave the company. His surprise departure, which comes as TikTok is in the hot seat, is not reassuring for the social network.

Can the banning of TikTok by the American authorities still be avoided? Since the hearing of Shou Zi Chew, its boss, in March 2023, everything suggests that the social network is heading straight for exclusion from the American market. Democrats and Republicans seem convinced that TikTok is a weapon of the Chinese Communist Party, which should allow them to activate a new special law to ban TikTok in the United States.

While awaiting judgment, TikTok is trying to limit the damage. The social network has a clear strategy: put users on its side and promise the American authorities that it will create a structure independent of China dedicated to Americans’ data. Problem: the boss of this subsidiary will leave, as reported by The Verge in an article published on May 2.

Another blow for TikTok

Arrived in 2019 at TikTok (after a career at Google, Twitter, and Uber), Eric Han is in charge of the security of the social network in the United States. His job is to oversee the moderation of the platform and to ensure that TikTok is in compliance with US laws.

Since December 2022, Eric Han has also been the boss of the USDS, the branch that TikTok wants to create to secure Americans’ data (TikTok US Data Security). An entity that cannot completely exist without the agreement of elected officials, which is currently very unlikely.

Eric Han’s LinkedIn profile. // Source: LinkedIn

On May 12, Eric Han will leave TikTok. While waiting to find a replacement for him, his colleague Andy Bonillo, one of the other USDS officials, will act as interim manager. But, until then, nothing says that TikTok won’t already be banned by the United States. In the meantime, the social network is trying to put Eric Han’s departure into perspective: “TikTok’s security manager is based in Dublin, with officials in the United States, Ireland, and Singapore”, indicates the company in a press release, to imply that Eric Han was not at the heart of his project.

Why quit TikTok? Eric Han has priori said nothing about his motivations or his future destination. Either way, leaving the social network at this precise moment, only a few months after being named head of the USDS, sends the wrong signal. Does Eric Han try to flee before it’s too late?

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