‘Tiktok is not the enemy’: Tiktok CEO slams Facebook for ‘maligning attacks disguised as patriotism’

Facebook’s attempts to deflect criticism by leaning on its status as a ‘proudly American company’ have been rebuffed by Chinese-owned Tiktok, with Kevin Mayer, CEO of the social media platform saying the focus should be on transparency and a better future, not ‘attacks’.

Mayer has proclaimed tech platforms should open their data and algorithms to regulators and declared it will take the first step in doing so.

“We will not wait for regulation to come, but instead Tiktok has taken the first step by launching a Transparency and Accountability Center for moderation and data practices,” said Mayer in a blog post.

Tiktok is pushing for transparency by opening its doors to regulators in the US

Mayer’s comments come as four of the tech giants faced the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee this week, with Representative David Cicilline concluding the hearing by declaring their power has become too strong and must end. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was one of the tech bosses under question during the hearing and it was his prepared testimony which drew the ire from Mayer.

“Although people around the world use our products, 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,” read the documents Zuckerberg had prepared for the hearing.

But Zuckerberg wasn’t the only one to point to patriotism, with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also leaning heavily on the defence. Zuckerberg, however, pointed out that if lawmakers choose to crack down on American-owned companies, like Facebook, Chinese-owned companies, like Tiktok, could reign supreme.

Mayer, a former Disney executive who joined Tiktok parent company ByteDance in May, doesn’t think Zuckerberg has America’s best interests at heart though. He claimed in the blog post that Facebook has launched, and is still launching, copycat platforms to try and cut away at Tiktok’s market share, likely because the social media giant is threatened.

“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,” said Mayer.

Not only does Tiktok’s presence not hurt America, he argued, it provides a better alternative to a world where Facebook and the other tech giants are allowed to roam free.

“Without TikTok, American advertisers would again be left with few choices. 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 – our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy. Consumers can only benefit from the growth of healthy, successful platforms like TikTok and we will fight to continue to give American creators, users and brands an entertaining outlet for many years to come,” Mayer said.

There was no clear result from the hearing on Wednesday, but should the Subcommittee decide the tech giants have too much power there could be some harsh penalties. Apple and Google could be forced to stop selling their own apps, Facebook could have to spin out Instagram and Whatsapp, and Amazon could be forced to stop supplying its own products. Months of deliberations and reports are expected, with some decisions hinging on the November election, but it’s likely the results will have an unparalleled impact on some of the big platforms.

Tiktok says attacks against it aren’t because of its platform, they’re embedded in politics

Tiktok itself has come under fire for its potential security risks, with threats from around the world to ban the platform and concerns over the security of its data. But whether these are legitimate concerns or just a way to turn the platform into a ‘political football’, the platform has maintained that its US or Australian policies are not governed by China or any other foreign government.

Mayer is calling on the other tech platforms to follow Tiktok in its bid for transparency, saying now is the time for the companies to ‘step up’.

“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. We are doing so, and will continue to take the bold steps needed. I accept and appreciate the challenge,” said Mayer.

“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.”


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