As TikTok faces its biggest challenge to date, with the US government insisting that it be divorced from its Chinese parent company or cease doing business here, the company has a trust and safety officer whose name may be familiar to San Franciscans.

Suzy Loftus was very briefly San Francisco's interim district attorney, two DAs ago, and in 2021 she took a job as head of safety at TikTok. As she tells the Chronicle in an interview this week, Loftus was turned on to TikTok by another mom of teenagers during the pandemic, and she used it in part as a way to bond with her teenage children during the COVID lockdown. "We had so much fun and it opened up this world to me that I thought was magical," Loftus says.

Loftus ended up with an opportunity to go to work for the company, which has an office in Mountain View, and she says, "I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sort of step in." Loftus compares her role ensuring the safety of the platform to her role as a prosecutor, keeping San Francisco safe.

As for the looming existential threat to the company's US operations, Loftus tells the Chronicle the threat is "nothing new for us." And, she adds, "What I’ve been really proud to see over the last three years is the really unprecedented and voluntary steps that TikTok has taken to safeguard US user data. I’ve been a part of building it."

TikTok has been under the threat of US lawmakers banning it or trying to forcibly divorce it from its Chinese parent company ByteDance for several years now. And as of Monday, President Biden signed into law the congressional bill that, among other things, includes a provision insisting that TikTok, or at least its US operations and US-facing app, be sold to an American buyer within 270 days.

Tech analysts all agree that the process of cleaving TikTok's American operations from ByteDance will be extremely complicated and difficult, and is likely to mired in legal battles for months or years to come. "It’s going to be a royal mess,” says Anupam Chander, a visiting scholar at the Institute for Rebooting Social Media at Harvard, speaking to the Times earlier this week.

And it remains unclear whether ByteDance may try to sell the entire app to an American company, or just its US operation. The companies likely in the league to step would few, and include Microsoft, which doesn't already own a social media platform, and Oracle, which already partners with TikTok and regularly reviews its source code, according to Loftus.

Oracle and Walmart previously conducted talks with the company when there was last a threat of a ban under the Trump administration in 2020.

For now, Loftus says in the Chronicle interview, she is just "focused on the job ahead," which includes fighting off misinformation and maintaining platform safety during this year's election season.

And she compares her role in fending off bad actors and ensuring safety on TikTok to the fight against crime and other issues plaguing San Francisco.

"I love my job. And I love fighting for this platform," Loftus tells the Chronicle. "It’s something that brings so much joy and it’s worth fighting for. It’s like, you know, I love San Francisco, and I’m happy to fight for her and defend her and build safety there, and I love TikTok, and I’m kind of doing the same thing here."

Previously: Suzy Loftus Sworn In As Interim San Francisco DA, Despite Backlash

Image: Instagram via @suzyloftus4da