TikTok CEO: ‘We are not the enemy’

Business & Technology

On the same day that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended his company by saying it is “proudly American,” and that it competes against China’s “version of the internet,” TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer slammed Facebook for copycat products and for attacks that are “disguised as patriotism.”

mark zuckerberg appearing on video at a congressional testimony
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of a “proudly American company” testifies to Congress about Facebook's values, in contrast with companies from China. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS

As we anticipated yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg played the patriotism card in his congressional testimony today in defending his business practices (on Youtube here). The key part of his prepared remarks:

Facebook is a proudly American company. We believe in values — democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression — that the American economy was built on. 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.

Zuckerberg made no direct mention of TikTok, the China-based video app that is sucking up Instagram’s Gen-Z market share and ad dollars, in his remarks. He made an indirect reference to the home market of TikTok’s owner, Bytedance, with this line: “We also compete globally, including against companies that have access to markets that we aren’t in.”

Before Zuckerberg could deliver this testimony, however, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer published a press release that bashed Facebook head-on:

At TikTok we welcome competition. We think fair competition makes all of us better. 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 U.S.

Mayer also made overtures to Americanness, saying — vaguely — that some part of TikTok constituted “responsible and committed members of the American community,” and ending the press release by saying, “TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy.”

But some U.S. Senators have already decided that TikTok is the enemy.

  • Seven senators, including Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, sent a letter to federal government departments yesterday raising “concerns that TikTok may enable the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to engage in influence operations designed to interfere in American elections,” Caixin reports.

Given the increasing scrutiny of TikTok, as we wrote earlier this month, “Maybe the only viable future for TikTok is for its parent company, ByteDance, to sell it to an American tech or media giant, and then let Mayer continue running it.”