TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer shot back at Mark Zuckerberg Wednesday morning after the Facebook CEO criticized its Chinese competitor, with Mayer mocking Facebook’s “copycat” product Reels, as major U.S. tech CEOs prepare to testify to Congress about antitrust issues and TikTok’s growing role in political jockeying between the U.S. and China.
Zuckerberg took a thinly-veiled swipe at TikTok in his published opening remarks to the House antitrust subcommittee, saying “Facebook is a proudly American company” which embraces American values like “democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression.”
He also took aim at China, where TikTok’s parent company ByteDance is based: “China is building its own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries.”
Facebook has also been developing its own TikTok competitor, Facebook Reels, and is reportedly trying to lure TikTok influencers onto its platform.
Mayer hit back at Facebook Wednesday, noting the “attacks by our competition—namely Facebook—disguised as patriotism and designed to put an end to our very presence in the US” and writing that Facebook was launching its “copycat product” Reels “after their other copycat Lasso failed quickly.”
The TikTok CEO acknowledged that TikTok’s ties to China made it a subject of increased scrutiny, but that it would only spur TikTok to “greater transparency and accountability” as a result.
Mayer pointed to TikTok’s upcoming Transparency and Accountability Center in Los Angeles as putting the company “a step ahead of the industry,” which will allow experts to view TikTok’s policies and code in real time.
As his tech CEO colleagues address Congress on antitrust issues, Mayer argued that TikTok’s presence has been essential to maintaining competition in Silicon Valley, claiming that “American advertisers would again be left with few choices” without TikTok and “competition would dry up.”
“We are willing to take all necessary steps to ensure the long-term availability and success of TikTok,” Mayer wrote. “For our skeptics, I am confident we have the answers and where we do not, we will improve. The onus is on us to step up.”
Mayer’s statement comes as TikTok has faced broad criticism and scrutiny recently regarding its ties to the Chinese government, particularly as the tension between the U.S. and China continues to escalate. The U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States reportedly launched a national security investigation into TikTok in November, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently suggested that the government was “looking at” banning TikTok and similar Chinese social media apps. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign has also directed its staff to remove TikTok from their phones, while the Democratic National Committee has directed employees “to refrain from using TikTok on personal devices” and only undertake campaign work on TikTok “using a separate phone and account.”
$50 billion: TikTok’s estimated valuation, according to investors looking to take over the company cited by Reuters—making the company far more valuable than similar competitors like Snap.
In addition to the specific criticism leveled at TikTok, tech companies—particularly Facebook—have come under increasing scrutiny over coronavirus and election misinformation as well as hate speech.
What to Watch For
Zuckerberg and fellow tech chiefs Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook (the CEOs of Amazon, Alphabet and Apple, respectively) will address allegations that their companies have undertaken anticompetitive practices in the online marketplace Wednesday, as the CEOs testify before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee.