Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have been a key force behind President Donald Trump’s executive order on TikTok. According to The Wall Street Journal, Zuckerberg actively lobbied for a TikTok ban in private meetings with members of Congress that are tough on China and the president himself.
People familiar with the matter told the Journal that, behind the scenes in Washington and during White House dinners, Zuckerberg warned that the rise of Chinese internet companies could threaten American businesses and fueled the Congress’ existing fears of TikTok’s soaring popularity posing a national security risk.
In these meetings, Zuckerberg is said to have echoed the same concerns he voiced in his Georgetown University speech in October. “On TikTok, the Chinese app growing quickly around the world, mentions of protests are censored, even in the U.S. Is that the internet we want?” Zuckerberg told students.
Facebook also reportedly reached out to several lawmakers and senators who had historically been critical of China and expressed concerns over why, if American companies are banned from China, TikTok should be allowed to operate in the U.S.
We’ve reached out to Facebook and TikTok for a comment and we’ll update the story when we hear back.
Shortly after, the dominoes seemingly began collapsing for TikTok. In October, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York — both of whom, the Journal claims, met with Zuckerberg in September — demanded an official inquiry into TikTok. Weeks later, the China-based startup Bytedance’s acquisition of TikTok became the subject of a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment.
Over the course of the next few months, TikTok landed under heavy scrutiny and faced bans in official departments such as the U.S. Army. The final nail in the coffin arrived earlier this month when Trump signed an executive order that would block TikTok in the U.S. unless it sells off its operations to an American owner. Meanwhile, Facebook accelerated its work on a TikTok competitor called Reels, and even began poaching TikTok stars for exclusive deals.
TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer soon hit back at Facebook and called for “fair and open competition.” “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 wrote in a blog post.