Fact Check

Did TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Once Work as a Facebook Intern?

A viral TikTok video with the claim circulated in the days after TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before U.S. Congress.

Published Mar 30, 2023

 (Tom Williams/GettyImages)
Image Via Tom Williams/GettyImages
In the summer of 2009, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew interned at Facebook.

On March 24, 2023, a TikTok video claimed that TiKTok's CEO, Shou Zi Chew, interned at Facebook in the summer of 2009. It went viral, with over 600,000 likes, nearly 5,000 comments, and 10,000 shares as of this writing. 

People on social media channels like YouTube and Reddit also made the claim, speaking glowingly of how an intern at a social media company went on to become CEO of a very successful social media app with over a billion monthly users.

Corroborating the viral TikTok video's claims, media outlets also reported that Chew interned at Facebook in the summer 2009 before he graduated from Harvard Business School a year later.

Interest in Chew grew after U.S. lawmakers questioned the TikTok CEO for nearly six hours about data security at the massively popular video-sharing app. With reports of Congress and the White House considering a ban on TikTok, some people claimed such a ban was already in place. A Snopes fact-check found that to be false.

Soon after the congressional hearing on March 23, claims swirled over one aspect of Chew's background: his internship at Facebook when the social media platform was a startup. 

This claim is true.

Chew also acknowledged that background, writing on his HBS Alumni page in 2020 about how he met his wife, Vivian Kao, while doing internships in California in 2009. Kao interned for Better Place, a clean energy startup. "I was working for a startup that summer, too," said Chew, according to the alumni page. "It was called Facebook."

Additionally, many credible media outlets like the AP, BBC, CNBC, The Straits Times, among others, reported that Chew indeed was an intern at the social media giant years before TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, launched it in 2018, after buying Musical.ly the same year. 

With TikTok emerging as one of the biggest rivals to Meta's Facebook and Instagram, people on social media questioned that background or even suggested a conspiracy theory that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was behind Congress's grilling of Chew.

"Not a coincidence that American politicians bribed by rival social media lobbyists suddenly push for banning Tiktok," a Facebook user commented on the TikTok CEO's grilling.

As to the claim that Chew was once an intern at Facebook, with reputable media outlets and Chew himself acknowledging it, we rate this claim "True."


"Global Ambition." Harvard Business School Alumni, 13 Nov. 2020, https://www.alumni.hbs.edu/stories/Pages/story-bulletin.aspx?num=7824.

Jackson, Ashton. "TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Got His Start in Tech at Facebook—Now His App Is Its Biggest Competitor." CNBC, 25 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/25/tiktok-ceo-shou-zi-chew-started-in-tech-as-facebook-intern.html.

Lee, Amanda. "From Facebook Intern to TikTok CEO: Who Is Singaporean Chew Shou Zi?" The Straits Times, 23 Mar. 2023. The Straits Times, https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/from-goldman-sachs-banker-to-tiktok-ceo-who-is-singaporean-chew-shou-zi.

"Shou Zi Chew: Who Is the TikTok CEO?" BBC News, 22 Mar. 2023. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-65022596.

Sweney, Mark, and Johana Bhuiyan. "From Facebook Intern to the Crosshairs of Congress: TikTok Chief's Stellar Rise." The Guardian, 23 Mar. 2023. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/mar/23/tiktok-harvard-graduate-ceo-battles-us-market-shou-zi-chew.

"TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew: 3 Things to Know." AP NEWS, 23 Mar. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/tiktok-ban-shou-zi-chew-testify-7927b1915db270aac67ca6f4ca31d6f3.

"TikTok: The Story of a Social Media Giant." BBC News, 4 Aug. 2020. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53640724.

Damakant Jayshi is a former writer for Snopes.