President Donald Trump wants the owner of the wildly popular short-form video app TikTok to sell its U.S. operations, and if that happens, few tech companies have as much to gain as Facebook, the Washington Post reported.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has actively tried to raise concerns about TikTok and its Chinese owner, ByteDance.
In a private dinner at the White House in October, Zuckerberg told Trump that Chinese internet companies should be a bigger concern to the U.S. than regulating Facebook.
Zuckerberg told Georgetown students that TikTok doesn’t share Facebook’s commitment to freedom of expression, and is a risk to U.S. values and tech supremacy.
And Zuckerberg talked about TikTok specifically in October meetings with Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). The government began a national-security review of the company soon after, and by the spring, Trump was threatening to ban TikTok.
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Facebook has established American Edge, an advocacy group that has run ads praising U.S. tech companies for their contributions to the country’s economy, cultural influence and national security. In the first half of 2020, Facebook spent more on lobbying than any other company, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, WP reported. In 2018, by contrast, it ranked eighth among companies, the center’s data show.
In the face of antitrust and regulatory threats by the government, Zuckerberg’s comments about TikTok tied into Facebook’s campaign to emphasize its importance to U.S. tech pre-eminence, said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone.
“Our view on China has been clear: we must compete,” Stone said in a written statement. “As Chinese companies and influence have been growing so has the risk of a global internet based on their values, as opposed to ours.”
TikTok is known as Douyin in China. One of the reasons Douyin took off in China is that Instagram is banned there. Its parent company, ByteDance, recently valued at more than $75 billion, bills itself first as an artificial intelligence company, not a creator of mission-driven social platforms.
It has only existed in the U.S. since mid-2018. Black celebrities use TikTok. Cardi B posted a video lip-synching to her own song. Comedian/actress Liza Koshy does funny videos on the platform. You can also find singer Jason Derulo, actress Keke Palmer, actor Sterling K. Brown, Lizzo, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Terry Crews, and The Rock. Fenty Beauty has a TikTok account.
TikTok reportedly has more than 500 million users including 100 million in the U.S. Facebook, by comparison, had 256 million monthly users in the U.S. and Canada as of the end of June. Twitter has 330 million monthly active users globally with 48.35 million in the U.S. As of January 2020, Instagram had 1 billion global monthly active users behind Facebook (2.6 billion). Instagram is one of the most popular social networks in the world, Statista reported.
TikTok is the biggest threat to Facebook’s dominance of social media, Washington Post reported. In Q1 2020, TikTok became the most downloaded app in a single quarter, according to research firm Sensor Tower. Chinaphobia.
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While Facebook once acquired startups such as TikTok that it viewed as potential threats, scrutiny from antitrust authorities makes those deals more fraught for big tech companies, said Brian Wieser, global president of business intelligence at GroupM, according to WP.
TikTok, estimated valuation: $50 billion, is in talks to sell portions of itself — possibly to Microsoft.
In July, Moguldom CEO Jamarlin Martin predicted that Facebook would use TikTok to create Chinaphobia.
“I think Joel Kaplan & the Facebook lobbyists are smart enough to use their swamp muscle to attack Tik Tok on political grounds, create Chinaphobia. There may be legitimate concerns about Tik Tok but sneaky $FB operatives are likely adding fuel to the fire. Dem’s will fall for it,” Jamarlin tweeted.