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TikTok’s potential new buyer backs US Surgeon General’s call for health warnings on social media

June 2024; Frank McCourt, Founder, McCourt Global, on Centre Stage during day one of Collision 2024 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto, Canada.
June 2024; Frank McCourt, Founder, McCourt Global, on Centre Stage during day one of Collision 2024 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto, Canada. Copyright Vaughn Ridley / Collision / Sportsfile/�SPORTSFILE
Copyright Vaughn Ridley / Collision / Sportsfile/�SPORTSFILE
By Pascale Davies
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Frank McCourt said social media was an “epidemic” and that he believed in building a different model to TikTok’s algorithm.


A US businessman bidding to buy TikTok said he strongly supported calls for social media to issue health warnings like tobacco products, calling social media “an epidemic” that is “associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents”.

Frank McCourt told the Collision tech conference in Toronto, Canada on Monday that he agreed with US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s op-ed published in the New York Times titled ‘Why I’m Calling for a Warning Label on Social Media Platforms’.

The McCourt Global founder said, “our responsibility as adults here is obviously to protect the next generation”.

“Our surgeon general is bringing attention to it. Many other people are doing the same. I think this movement is happening as we sit here.” 

“I would invite all of you to join it, because this is what it’s going to take to change things and to create this alternative. We need to fix the tech,” McCourt said. 

The American Psychological Association said in a 2019 study that there was a 47 per cent increase in the proportion of young adults with suicidal thoughts or other suicide-related outcomes, from 2008 to 2017, when social media use among young adults soared. 

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologised in January to parents who said its platform Instagram contributed to their children’s suicides or exploitation in a US Senate hearing, which also heard testimonies from X CEO Linda Yaccarino, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew and Discord CEO Jason Citron.

Due to security concerns, US President Joe Biden signed a law in April that would ban TikTok unless its Chinese parent company ByteDance finds a US-based buyer.

“We don’t believe that just replacing China’s control and money with some other sovereign’s control and money solves anything,” McCourt said. 

TikTok’s algorithm provides personalised video recommendations based on what the user has viewed and liked. But McCourt said this model that takes control of personal data from the user is damaging. 

“We believe in a different model, where we move people over to this new protocol. It’s called DSNP (an open protocol known as Decentralised Social Networking Protocol),” he said. 

“Let’s permit the use of our data so that we have agency again, as well as economic value. Choice, a voice and a stake, that’s the internet that I think we should have. And then we’ll build algorithms, we’ll use the tech”.

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