TikTok’s U.S. Head of Safety and Trust is leaving the company on May 12, according to reports. Eric Han’s departure comes as TikTok grapples with a potential government ban.
Eric Han led the safety teams for TikTok in the US for years. In December 2022, he was named Head of Trust and Safety for TikTok US Data Security (USDS). This entity was created to help convince the government that TikTok is managing American data properly.
The Verge obtained a copy of a memo circulated to employees that announced the departure. Andy Bonillo, interim USDS General manager said he will step into the role until “we identify Eric’s replacement for the longer term.” Bonillo’s title of interim remains as such because the United States government has not approved of TikTok’s USDS proposal. It would also have input over who would run the division if it were to grant final approval.
“Over the past four years, Eric helped safeguard our U.S. community through an incredible stage of growth,” the memo from Bonillo reads. “We remain dedicated to upholding our commitments to the TikTok community—both in the U.S. and around the world—as we continue to invest in trust and safety as a cornerstone of those efforts.”
Currently TikTok’s fate in the United States is in a precarious position. State governments like Montana have taken steps to ban the entire app for its citizens. The Biden administration has also signaled it does not think the USDS separate entity TikTok has created is enough to address its national security concerns. TikTok could be ordered to divest completely from its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.
U.S. intelligence officials like FBI Director Christopher Wray have issued repeated warnings about TikTok. It’s not just the amount of data the app can collect about users—but also what the algorithm can push to users. It can be used to suppress sensitive ideas or send viral trends like eating TidePods to the top of the Discovery feed.