Oct 6, 2020 - Technology

Instagram head on TikTok ban: "Damage might have already been done"

Photo illustration of Adam Mosseri, the Head of Instagram, and a person watching a video on their cellphone

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, told Axios in an interview Monday that President Trump's efforts to ban TikTok may have already dealt irreversible damage to the digital world.

Driving the news: "The damage might have already been done in terms of normalizing this type of policy," Mosseri said. He and others have previously cautioned that nations targeting individual apps could chill innovation and free expression and encourage authoritarian governments to further extend their reach online.

What they're saying: "I think it's really going to be problematic if we end up banning TikTok and we set a precedent for more countries to ban more apps," Mosseri said. "You can imagine them feeling really emboldened to say, 'Look, you have to do this or we will ban you entirely.'"

  • "It would be bad for everyone ... It will be bad for American tech companies which have been historically the biggest international tech companies. And it's going to be bad for people too, because you would have a more fragmented internet."

Catch up quick: Trump threatened the ban on TikTok in an August executive order, citing national security concerns around the Chinese-owned social video app.

  • Last month, Trump agreed to a deal aimed at staving off the ban, under which Oracle would serve as TikTok's "trusted technology partner" in the U.S.
  • That deal still needs to be finalized, although a federal judge last week stopped the Trump administration from blocking new U.S. downloads of TikTok in the meantime, concluding the order may have been an overreach of the president's emergency powers.
  • Mosseri is now suggesting the whole saga may have the same global impact regardless of its ultimate outcome.

The big picture: Mosseri's comments come on the eve of Instagram's 10th birthday. (The photo-sharing app was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion.) Today, Mosseri says, well over 90% of its users and growth is outside of the U.S.

Go deeper: The TikTok deal's for-show provisions and flimsy foundations

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