TikTok Boss Says Facebook Attacks Are 'Designed to Put an End' to U.S. Presence

The CEO of TikTok has accused Facebook of trying to force his company out of the U.S. market with attacks "disguised as patriotism."

In a blog published today, ex-Disney streaming executive Kevin Mayer, who has led the Chinese-owned platform since May, criticized Instagram's upcoming TikTok-like video product "Reels," describing the imminent rival as a "copycat product."

Mayer blasted Facebook's approach to competition hours before CEO Mark Zuckerberg was set to appear before a congressional antitrust hearing. In his opening remarks, the Facebook boss pitched his platform as "a proudly American company."

Mayer wrote in the blog post: "We think fair competition makes all of us better. To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on."

Referencing a TikTok-inspired Facebook product that never found an audience and was closed this month, he added: "Facebook is even launching another copycat product, Reels (tied to Instagram), after their other copycat Lasso failed quickly.

"But let's focus our energies on fair and open competition in service of our consumers, rather than maligning attacks by our competitor—namely Facebook—disguised as patriotism and designed to put an end to our very presence in the U.S."

As pressure has mounted on TikTok over its ownership, and critics suggesting user data of Americans could be stolen or accessed by the foreign state, speculation has surged that the short-form video app could be banned by the U.S. government.

It appears that Facebook smells blood in the water. The Wall Street Journal reported this week Instagram had already talked to some TikTok creators, offering money in exchange for exclusively creating content on Reels—expected in the coming weeks.

Last month, after India outlawed TikTok over security concerns, Instagram was quick to act by launching a test of Reels in the region, Business Insider reported.

Mayer has now attempted to distance his app from data and privacy risks by pledging to share more information about its "algorithms, moderation policies, and data flows," saying such a move puts his company "a step ahead of the industry."

It is unclear if the move will calm the fears of U.S opponents, who argue sharing data with the app is as good as handing it directly to the Chinese state.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a technology firm based in Beijing. Reuters reported today that ByteDance investors have valued TikTok as being worth $50 billion.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro previously suggested that president Trump was "only getting started" with apps such as TikTok and WeChat and described Mayer as being an "American puppet" for taking a position at the Chinese firm.

In his blog today, Mayer firmly disagreed with criticism, echoing repeated denials from TikTok officials who say user data is never given to the Chinese government.

He wrote: "We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda... TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy.

"The bigger move is to use this moment to drive deeper conversations around algorithms, transparency, and content moderation, and to develop stricter rules of the road. We are taking the first step of many to address these concerns, and call on the industry to follow our lead for the benefit of users and creators everywhere."

TikTok
In this photo illustration the logo of Chinese media app for creating and sharing short videos, TikTok, also known as Douyin is displayed on the screen of a smartphone in front of a Chinese flag on December 26, 2019 in Paris, France. Chesnot/Getty