TikTok desires to place its ‘greatest foot ahead’ via platform transparency

In the face of looming regulation and public scrutiny, TikTok says its focus remains steadfast on what it describes as “our community.”

At the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday, TikTok’s chief operating officer, Vanessa Pappas, spoke on a range of topics such as data privacy, the company’s ties with China, and the addictive traits of an endless scroll. Her answer remained the same for most issues facing the high-flying social media platform: We love our community.

“We call TikTok the last sunny spot on the internet,” Pappas said. “We’re really upholding that community, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re coming to TikTok.”

In just a few short years, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms on the internet, with more than 1 billion users. Because it’s owned by ByteDance, a Chinese government–affiliated internet corporation, TikTok has faced aggressive pressure from the US government.

The scrutiny is so intense that in 2020, former President Donald Trump attempted to outright ban TikTok from app stores. TikTok seems to agree that this geopolitical issue is the company’s biggest public perception problem, and has worked hard to dodge tricky questions about its association with China. Leaked documents uncovered by Gizmodo reveal press talking points, and chief among them was downplaying the company’s connection with China.

When asked onstage about keeping user data out of the hands of the Chinese government, Pappas offered only a general answer.

“We are a highly scrutinized platform,” she said. “We have a lot of attention on our efforts and our practices; we’re really looking to ensure that we’re putting the best foot forward. And we do that through those efforts and transparency.”

The so-called sunny company has quite the challenge to face when it comes to its public image. A focus on transparency and its niche communities seems to be the best way forward for now.

“There are other platforms that will have similar features, but for us, it always comes back to the community,” Pappas said.

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