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TikTok hits out at Facebook, saying it has launched 'failed copycat products' and 'attacks disguised as patriotism'

Long blog post from new CEO comes as Mark Zuckerberg and other tech bosses set for grilling at Congress

Adam Smith
Wednesday 29 July 2020 13:53 BST
TikTok is owned by a Chinese company. MANJUNATH KIRAN, AFP via Getty Images
TikTok is owned by a Chinese company. MANJUNATH KIRAN, AFP via Getty Images (MANJUNATH KIRAN, AFP via Getty Images)

TikTok has hit out at Facebook, accusing it of launching failed "copycat products" and attacking it under the false guise of patriotism.

New TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer wrote a blog post that claimed the company was committed to the US and American users, amid suggestions that the app is problematically tied to its owners Bytedance, a Chinese company.

TikTok does not operate in China, but its original product, Douyin, does.

TikTok has claimed that it does not pass on data to the Chinese government, but it is unclear what the relationship between the Chinese government and Douyin is.

It comes as Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is set to be grilled by Congress on antitrust issues, alongside the chief executives of Apple, Amazon and Google.

Mr Mayer did not make explicit reference to those hearings, but suggested that Facebook was launching unfair attacks on TikTok.

"At TikTok we welcome competition. We think fair competition makes all of us better," he wrote. "To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on.

"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 US."

Facebook has been criticised by US politicians for being too powerful, buying competitors rather than competing with them.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, in her 2020 presidential campaign, suggested that the social media giant should be broken up. Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp, and is attempting to merge the services closer together.

Facebook condemned in report it commissioned into its civil right record

Mr Mayer also said that TikTok would make part of its algorithms public, and called on competitors to do the same.

"We believe all companies should disclose their algorithms, moderation policies, and data flows to regulators", he said.

"Experts can observe our moderation policies in real-time, as well as examine the actual code that drives our algorithms. This puts us a step ahead of the industry, and we encourage others to follow suit."

"Competition would dry up and so too will an outlet for America's creative energy. We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda."

Facebook has been criticised for its decisions not to fact-check political advertisements, which could lead to voters being deceived about vital issues before the upcoming November 2020 presidential election.

The company has considered banning all political advertising.

Mark Zuckerberg submitted prepared remarks ahead of the hearings, in which he said that Facebook was “a proudly American company.”

“We believe in values — democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression — that the American economy was built on,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“Many other tech companies share these values, but there’s no guarantee our values will win out. For example, China is building its own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries.”

TikTok recently caught the attention of the Trump administration, due to the potential of the app being banned in the country.

According to Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, the US is “certainly looking at” banning the app, which would put American users’ “private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party”.

National security concerns are ostensibly the reasons behind the proposed ban, but mixed into the debate is America's anti-China sentiment with regards to their economic prowess.

That has also been exacerbated by the recent political actions of the Chinese government against protestors in Hong Kong, as well as China's approach to privacy and data.

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