'Ludicrous': Facebook on the Idea Zuckerberg Influenced U.S. TikTok Policy After Private Dinner with Trump

Facebook has rejected the suggestion that Mark Zuckerberg's influence could have played a key role in shaping U.S. security concerns about TikTok.

The strongly-worded rebuttal was released today after the Wall Street Journal reported that the social media platform's CEO had discussed the apparent threat from Chinese tech companies, including TikTok, with some U.S. politicians last year.

The newspaper reported Zuckerberg held private meetings with U.S. lawmakers last fall in which he specifically namechecked TikTok and doubled down on talking points about Chinese firms made during a speech at Georgetown University on October 17.

"China is building its own internet focused on very different values and is... exporting their vision of the internet," Zuckeberg said at the time. "A decade ago, almost all of the major internet platforms were American. Today, six of the top ten are Chinese."

The CEO raised similar concerns about China threatening American businesses during a dinner at the White House the same month that included both President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to the Journal sources, who were unnamed.

Today, Facebook chose to play down the sway that Zuckerberg could possibly hold over the decision-making processes of elected officials in the U.S.

It said: "Mark has never advocated for a ban on TikTok. He has repeatedly said publicly that the biggest competitors to U.S. tech companies are Chinese companies, with values that don't align with democratic ideals like free speech.

"It's ludicrous to suggest that long-standing national security concerns, raised by policy makers on both sides of the aisle, have been shaped by Mark's statements alone."

Facebook rep Andy Stone told the Wall Street Journal Zuckerberg had "no recollection of discussing TikTok at the dinner" with President Trump or his associates.

The future of TikTok in the U.S. remains unclear. Trump has promised to restrict how it can conduct business with American firms via an order earlier this month that promised to ban "transactions" with its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance.

Microsoft has previously confirmed that it is considered a partial acquisition of TikTok and an updated executive order on August 14 gave it a 90-day deadline.

"There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance Ltd... might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States," the August 14 order read. Trump released a second order against Chinese app WeChat.

This month, Facebook unveiled its TikTok-like rival Reels, which offers some similar short-form content creation tools incorporated into the Instagram app.

Despite his warnings about the encroaching threat from Chinese tech firms, Zuckerberg told staff this month he was worried about the U.S.-led threats against the app and said a ban would set "a really bad long-term precedent," Buzzfeed reported.

Zuckerberg told staff: "Yes, they are a competitor this year, and this month, next month maybe our engagement will go up. Maybe it will make Reels a little bit easier just to roll out. But you don't run a company for the next month or the next quarter."

TikTok, which has built up hundreds of millions of users in America, has denied claims that its Chinese ownership poses a national security risk to the U.S., pledging it will now take legal action in response to the ban threat from the president.

"We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly," it previously said.

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty