At Wednesday’s antitrust hearing, Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is set to tell Congress his company is an American success story crucial in winning an internet arms race against China. TikTok’s CEO is already striking back. The hugely popular video app owned by ByteDance Ltd. has become symbolic of Chinese power in the U.S., new CEO Kevin Mayer acknowledged in a statement. “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.,” he said in a blog post.
Mayer, who left Walt Disney Co. for the viral video platform in May, now leads an effort to convince U.S. regulators TikTok isn’t a threat to national security or America’s youth. The world’s most valuable startup is trying to stave off a possible blacklisting that would cripple its growth, and exploring options such as a sale of TikTok to American investors.
Zuckerberg’s testimony -- published in advance -- focused on the broader danger of allowing tech firms from the world’s No. 2 economy to dominate the online sphere. After years of trying to bring Facebook into China, he’s choosing the opposite path, setting up Facebook’s success as an alternative to China’s.
“China is building its own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries,” Zuckerberg will say today, according to the CEO’s testimony prepared for the House Judiciary Committee on antitrust.
The argument is likely to resonate with President Donald Trump, who has already threatened to ban TikTok in an escalation of tension with China over trade, security, and the coronavirus. Facebook competes directly with TikTok, including with a new feature called Reels available in some countries. Mayer mentions the product by name, as well as mini-video app Lasso. “Their other copycat Lasso faile quickly,” he says. “Bring it on.”
In the meantime, TikTok is investing in reinventing its image, and hiring heavily in the U.S. Mayer’s own hiring is regarded as a big help in burnishing TikTok’s credentials. It’s building relationships to show TikTok to be “responsible and committed members of the American community,” Mayer writes.