TikTok Calls Instagram Reels a 'Copycat Product' After Speculation of U.S. Ban

As short form video application TikTok continues to face political pressure in the U.S., it will soon find itself with another problem: Facebook.

Instagram—which is owned by the Mark Zuckerberg-led company—is planning to unveil its TikTok-like Reels next month. The Wall Street Journal reported today Instagram has offered TikTok creators money to shift their attention to the new platform.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance and hugely popular with teens, is standing firm against imminent opposition, blasting the social media company for encroaching on its territory, even after its previous attempt failed.

A separate TikTok-like app launched by Facebook in 2018, called Lasso, went out with a whimper this month, with service ending on July 10, The Verge reported.

"Given that Lasso didn't catch on, it's not surprising to see Facebook try this tactic with a copycat product tied to Instagram," a TikTok spokesperson told Wall Street Journal. "No matter how you dress things up, hundreds of millions of people truly just enjoy TikTok."

According to the newspaper, content creators could be offered "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to exclusively make material for the Instagram service, which is said to use features similar to TikTok, including 15-second video clips set to music.

"Our focus here is offering choice, which we believe is a great thing for people to have," Instagram spokesperson Sarissa Thrower told WSJ in a statement.

From its high-ground position, TikTok has been downloaded more than two billion times globally via app stores, according to analytics company SensorTower.

But it has already felt some heat from its newest rival. After TikTok was banned in India over data privacy and national security concerns due to its close ties with China, Reels quickly swooped in and started tests in the region, Business Insider reported.

TikTok has been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

Speculation about a U.S. ban on the app surged over the past month, with president Trump appearing to confirm in an interview that it was being considered.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said officials were "looking at" the app, far from the first time such concerns had been raised at a political level. In November last year, senators requested a formal assessment on TikTok's potential risk to national security.

Critics have suggested the data of American users could be exploited or scooped up by the Chinese government, a claim consistently denied by TikTok officials.

The business is currently led by an American CEO, former Disney streaming exec Kevin Mayer, and has reportedly considering splitting off from the parent company.

Still, the U.S.-led concerns extend beyond the Trump administration, with staffers from the campaigning team of Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden urged to remove TikTok from their phones over its alleged security threat, Bloomberg reported.

The Democratic and Republican national committees are taking a similarly-cautious approach when giving staffers advice about the Chinese-owned app.

"We continue to advise campaign staff to refrain from using TikTok on personal devices.
If you are using TikTok for campaign work, we recommend using a separate phone and account," a note from the DNC security team read this month, CNN reported.

Referencing a possible TikTok ban, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro previously indicated restrictions by the Trump administration were incoming. "TikTok and WeChat, I suspect that the president is just getting started with those two," he said.

Last Thursday, TikTok announced a new $200 million fund to help support its creators through "monetary opportunities," including a marketplace that makes it easier for brands to "partner with innovative creators to collaborate on paid campaigns."

TikTok
This illustrative picture taken on May 27, 2020 in Paris shows the logo of the social network application Tik Tok on the screen of a phone. MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty