Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg called out Chinese short-video application TikTok for censoring political protests across the world, specially in China and the United States.
Zuckerberg was addressing the audience on “The challenges of protecting free speech while combating hate speech online, fighting misinformation, and political data privacy and security” at a forum hosted by Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service.
Speaking about Facebook, and Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Zuckerberg stressed the fact that protesters across the world could and did use them without any fear of censorship from governments or state-owned agencies because of the strong encryption and privacy protection in place.
He then drew parallel with TikTok, which is a direct Facebook competitor, stating:
On TikTok, the Chinese app growing quickly around the world, mentions of these same protests are censored, even here in the U.S.
Free speech and all aside, Zuckerberg could be feeling threatened by the rise of TikTok, which is rapidly gaining popularity across the globe. In fact, there is a leaked recording that shows Zuckerberg addressing company employees, in which he mentions that TikTok is the first successful Chinese product globally and that,
It’s starting to do well in the U.S., especially with young folks.
So some may construe Zuckerberg’s statements as a sign of disparaging what is a rapidly up coming star in the same industry. We all know how the Facebook founder feels about competition, buying up Instagram and WhatsApp to ensure they did not threaten his business. However, there is truth in what he says.
Of course, he could have mentioned other companies, a lot of whom have been bending over for China recently: Apple for example, which has been removing apps that offended China’s rather delicate sensibilities, left and right from the App Store.
Interestingly, Zuckerberg’s comments come right on heels of Senator Marco Rubio’s request to investigate TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co Ltd’s acquisition of Musical.ly Inc. In his request, he made much the same argument as Zuckerberg, stating that TikTok is frequently used by the Chinese government to censor politically sensitive content. In a statement, he said:
[Chinese-owned apps] are increasingly being used to censor content and silence open discussion on topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese Government and Communist Party.