Senate considers banning TikTok as Trump-Zuckerberg battle brews in the background

As the Senate considers a ban on TikTok, the real fight could be between presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Trump is not in favor of a House bill that would ban TikTok if the platform is not sold to a company with no ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The position is a departure for the former president, but his reasoning sheds light on what many see as a years-long effort by Facebook's parent company, Meta, to undermine TikTok.

Trump said US lawmakers should not ban the ByteDance-owned platform just because it would benefit Facebook.

“I found Facebook extremely dishonest, and what would happen is if you banned TikTok, if you took it down…those people are going to go to Facebook. And Facebook, in my opinion, is much worse than TikTok,” Trump told Fox News host Howard Kurtz last month.

Trump warns lawmakers that if they ban TikTok, users will flock to the 'worst' platform Facebook

Trump-Zuckerberg

As the Senate considers a ban on TikTok, the real fight could be between presumptive GOP nominee Donald and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Getty Images)

John McEntee, a conservative TikTok influencer with more than 2.2 million followers who previously served in the Trump administration, believes the former president's critics are “putting it nicely” and that banning TikTok would not than make Zuckerberg more powerful.

“TikTok has been decimating Facebook and Google's profits for years and has significantly reduced their market share. There's nothing Big Tech wants more than eliminating its biggest competitor,” McEntee told Fox News Digital .

McEntee asked, in the rhetorical style he often uses to make his points in his viral videos: “If Republicans really wanted to take on Big Tech, why are they doing exactly what Mark Zuckerberg wants?”

Indeed, banning TikTok appears to be exactly what Zuckerberg wants.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote in 2020, Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long implemented a “copy, acquire and kill” strategy to defeat rival platforms. The 4-year-old article, published as Meta prepared to launch Instagram Reels, noted that the product was designed to “take on TikTok head-on.”

Even though Instagram Reels has been a success, it hasn't really slowed down TikTok, which remains the preferred social media platform for most young people.

Zuckerberg, who learned to speak Mandarin and reportedly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to give his unborn baby an honorary Chinese name in 2015, had long worked to make inroads with Beijing. But Zuckerberg's message regarding China changed, and the Facebook founder began criticizing the Chinese government as TikTok grew in popularity.

“China is building its own Internet based on very different values ​​and is now exporting its vision of the Internet to other countries. Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside of China was defined by American platforms with strong free speech values. guarantee that these values ​​will prevail,” Zuckerberg said during a speech at Georgetown University in 2019 before touting Meta-owned WhatsApp and disparaging TikTok.

“We're starting to see it on social media. While our services, like WhatsApp, are used around the world by protesters and activists because of strong encryption and privacy protections, on TikTok, the Chinese app that is growing rapidly around the world, mentions of these protests are censored, even in the United States,” he continued. “Is this the Internet we want?”

HOUSE PASSES BILL THAT COULD SEE TIKTOK BANNED IN THE UNITED STATES

Danger TikTok

The House of Representatives passed a law last month requiring TikTok to divest itself of CCP control or face a ban in the United States. (Fox News Digital)

The Georgetown speech is seen as an important moment, as Zuckerberg publicly launched into attacking TikTok and China. The Washington Post even published a full transcript of his remarks. The following year, another Wall Street Journal article noted that Zuckerberg's speech “stoked Washington's fears about TikTok.”

The WSJ reported that Zuckerberg met with several lawmakers to promote the idea that TikTok “represents a risk to American values ​​and technological supremacy” and told then-President Trump that “the rise of Chinese internet companies threatens American businesses” during an Oval Office meeting.

In 2020, Facebook was also “a key and primary driver in the launch” of American Edge, a pro-technology political advocacy group, the Washington Post reported. At that time, Facebook's influence appeared to be working, and Trump pledged to sign an executive order banning TikTok in 2020 before it was blocked by two federal judges. This came as concerns over TikTok's privacy and data issues were firmly entrenched in the national zeitgeist.

In the years since, Meta has angered conservatives by suspending Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts following the events of January 6. This happened after limiting posts on the News Feed related to the New York Post's explosive report on Hunter Biden's scandalous laptop.

McEntee believes that events since Zuckerberg's Georgetown speech prove his comments were disingenuous.

“Zuckerberg censored legitimate information during the 2020 election, then banned the sitting US president from his platform. So yes, talking about TikTok as a 'risk to American values' seems a bit disingenuous” , McEntee said.

In 2022, the Washington Post reported that “Facebook has quietly funded small grassroots groups to fight its battles in Washington”, and noted that American Edge was “aggressively attacking rival TikTok for its ownership by China”.

Another Washington Post article from 2022 reported that Meta paid GOP consulting firm Targeted Victory to “turn the public against TikTok.”

An iPhone screen with the TikTok application.

Former President Trump Disagrees with Congressional Efforts to Ban TikTok in the United States (iStock)

Trump recently posted on Truth Social: “If you get rid of TikTok, Facebook and Zuckerschmuck will double their revenue. I don't want Facebook, which cheated in the last election, to do better. They are a real enemy of people !”

Florida-based entrepreneur Shawn Meaike, a staunch Trump supporter and host of the “Close & Conquer” podcast, doesn't want to see TikTok influencers show up on Zuckerberg-owned platforms ahead of the crucial November presidential election.

“[Senate] I can't give Zuckerberg that type of power, especially before an election, and free speech is essential on TikTok or any platform,” Meaike told Fox News Digital.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Critics of TikTok have long called it a threat to national security. They have raised concerns that the Chinese government could exploit its power over Bytedance to access sensitive user data, even in the United States, something the company has denied.

China hawks have also warned that the app's popularity among young Americans gives China's ruling Communist Party a platform for a mass influence campaign. At the same time, other lawmakers beware of the push to curb TikTok have cited First Amendment concerns and potential harm to small businesses that rely on them.

Supporters of the bill, like former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, have repeatedly insisted that the bill is not intended to ban TikTok, but rather to diminish the threat it poses with its links with China.

Citizens United President David Bossie, who served as an advisor to Trump, believes TikTok is “very dangerous” for Americans because of the Chinese Communist Party's ability to access data and information. However, he believes that any solution that helps Meta “also benefits the left” because Zuckerberg would gain even more power and influence.

“Zuckerberg is much more interested in cornering the data market than in taking a position that benefits America. He says he wants to ban TikTok simply for PR purposes,” Bossie told Fox News Digital.

KEVIN O'LEARY PROPOSES TO BUY TIKTOK AND TURN IT INTO A 'NEW AMERICAN COMPANY' IF PROPOSED BAN ADVANCES

Mike Gallagher

The bill, led by Mike Gallagher, chairman of the House Select Committee on China, would block TikTok in the United States if its parent company, Bytedance, does not divest from it within 165 days of its passage. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, who chairs the subcommittee on China, announced last month that he would not seek re-election and would leave his House post earlier than expected, on April 19. to vacate his seat early enough to call a special election.

Gallagher, who has long been notoriously tough on TikTok, will reportedly join data analytics company Palantir when he leaves the House. Palantir was founded by longtime Meta board member Peter Thiel.

Trump also used Truth Social to share his thoughts on Gallagher.

“Never forget our cowards and weaklings! What a shame,” Trump captioned a post about Gallagher's planned early departure.

Rep. Gallagher's office declined to comment.

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Gabriel Hays and Elizabeth Elkind of Fox News Digital contributed to this report.

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