In September and October 2019, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg warned about the dangers of using rival tech giant TikTok. According to a report on August 23, that was a deliberate attempt to turn Washington against the company, almost a year after Zuckerberg launched his own version of TikTok called Reels.
TikTok has gained more than 100 million users in the United States, and it is widely seen as a threat to Facebook in terms of social media dominance.
Instagram, which is now a part of Facebook, launched its version of TikTok on August 5, and it was named Reels. The company went after the stars of TikTok with massive followings and thousands of views and offered them money to switch over to Reels.
In September 2019, Zuckerberg held a series of meetings with politicians, including Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who is known to have the ear of President Trump.
In October 2019, Cotton and Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, wrote a letter to intelligence officials demanding an inquiry into TikTok and its alleged dangers.
That inquiry led President Trump to worry about the social media platform. He has now told the owners of the Chinese tech company to accept an offer to buy the company or be banned from the United States.
In the same month, Zuckerberg spoke at Georgetown University, describing TikTok as "being at odds with American values."
Days later, he expressed his concerns about China during a dinner at the White House with Trump, Jared Kushner and Peter Thiel, a Facebook board member and a backer of Trump, according to The Wall Street Journal.
However, according to Facebook spokesman Andy Stone, Zuckerberg does not remember talking about TikTok during his dinner at the White House. His team also reached out to the members of Congress who are tough on China.
Zuckerberg allegedly asked them why TikTok is allowed to operate in the United States when there are a lot of American companies, including his own, can't operate in China.
In November 2019, Republican Senator Josh Hawley, met with Zuckerberg and said in a hearing that TikTok threatens the privacy of children in America.
Facebook as created an advocacy group called American Edge, and it has started running ads extolling U.S tech companies for their contributions to the country's economy, national security and cultural influence.
Meanwhile, the CEO of TikTok, Kevin Mayer, accused Facebook of trying to unfairly crush the market competition. He posted on a blog post on Newroom back in July that the companies must focus their energies on fair and open competition in service of their consumers rather than attacking competitors.
TikTok stars admitted that they had been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to switch to Reels before it launched. Instagram was also offering to pay for the production of the videos.
Facebook issued the TikTok stars with non-disclosure agreements to stop them from discussing the details of the deals.
A spokesperson of Facebook told The Journal about the alleged "grabbing of talent" and said that they have reached out to a diverse range of creators about Reels in several countries where it is being tested.
None of the TikTok stars who have been approached by Facebook was named, but one male user with millions of followers on TikTok told The Wall Street Journal that he would join Reels after being offered with a hefty sum of money.