Tiktok CEO Kevin Mayer said Wednesday the company will do what it takes to ensure TikTok’s availability and success as President Donald Trump reiterated threats to ban the hugely popular Chinese owned video sharing app in the U.S., and a report circulated that some American investment firms have suggested taking a majority stake.
“We’re looking at TikTok, we’re thinking about making a decision,” President Trump told reporters outside the White House Wednesday, according to news reports.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the app is under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and that he would make a recommendation on the service to President Trump this week. Meanwhile, the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is said to have banned staffers from using TikTok, citing security and privacy concerns.
“We are willing to take all necessary steps to ensure the long-term availability and success of TikTok. The one thing that will not change is our commitment to ensuring that TikTok remains a safe and secure platform for the tens of millions of American families that derive joy from it,” said Mayer in a blog post Wednesday. The new TikTok CEO and former top Walt Disney executive also angrily slammed Facebook for waging “attacks” that are “disguised as patriotism and designed to put an end to our very presence in the US” as it rolls out “a copycat product” called Reels.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a prepared statement ahead of a hearing on Capitol Hill today, called Facebook “a proudly American company,” while China “is building its own version of the internet focused on very different ideas” and “exporting their vision to other countries.”
TikTok is owned by Beijing-based global conglomerate ByteDance, where Mayer is COO. As U.S-China tensions simmer, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said publicly they’re considering a ban of the social media app due to national security concerns about the safety of personal data.
India banned TikTok late last month.
Separately, Reuters reported Wednesday that a pair of ByteDance’s U.S. investors, Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic, have suggested a transfer of majority ownership interest to them and that the Chinese company has also fielded acquisition interest in TikTok from other companies and financial firms. Reuters said the investor bid values TikTok at 50 times projected 2020 revenue of about $1 billion, but that ByteDance may think the service is worth more.
“Since publicly announcing two weeks ago that we are evaluating changes to the corporate structure of the TikTok business, there have been numerous suggestions made by external people not involved in the company’s internal discussions,” said TikTok spokesperson told Deadline. “We do not comment on rumors or speculation. We are very confident in the long-term success of TikTok and will make our plans public when we have something to announce.”
“Our U.S. team has tripled since the start of 2020, and under the leadership of our American CEO Kevin Mayer, we’re proud to be creating more than 10,000 jobs across the country as we continue our work to develop a best-in-class security infrastructure, promote a safe and positive app experience, and bring joy to millions of American families,” the spokesperson added.
TikTok has insisted it never provided user data to the Chinese government and would not do so if asked. But it was said to have been reviewing a range of options to distance itself from China, including searching for a new global headquarters outside of the country.
Yesterday, a group of TikTok influencers announced a partnerhip with smaller rival Triller. Facebook’s Instagram is offering financial incentives to TikTok creators to move to Reels.
“At TikTok we welcome competition. We think fair competition makes all of us better. To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on. 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,” Mayer said.
Zuckerberg and the heads of Google parent Alphabet, Amazon and Apple were set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday at noon ET as part of an ongoing antitrust inquiry.
In his prepared statement released ahead of the hearing, Zuckerberg called Facebook “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.”
See Mayer’s full blog post:
By Kevin Mayer, CEO, TikTok
Innovation is one of the defining characteristics of a competitive market. The introduction of a successful new product fuels growth and dynamism in any industry. It is unfortunate for creators, brands, and the broader community that it has been years since a company came along and reimagined what a social entertainment platform could be. But TikTok did just that.
TikTok brought a unique and intuitive interface. It gave creators easy, powerful tools. It also encouraged the formation of inclusive and meaningful communities. In short, TikTok brought successful competition to the marketplace. This is why I joined the company as CEO earlier this year: to help lead the next generation of creators to connect with their newly energized audience, while bringing fun entertainment to people’s lives.
TikTok has become the place where new music is discovered and explodes onto the scene, such as Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” During the pandemic, we saw the resonance of Curtis Roach, whose “Bored in the House” mantra became an anthem for putting a positive spin on tough times and helped people better cope with the lockdowns. And best of all, we witnessed many examples of families coming together to perform multi-generational song and dance, which warmed all of our hearts.
With our success comes responsibility and accountability. The entire industry has received scrutiny, and rightly so. Yet, we have received even more scrutiny due to the company’s Chinese origins. We accept this and embrace the challenge of giving peace of mind through greater transparency and accountability. We believe it is essential to show users, advertisers, creators, and regulators that we are responsible and committed members of the American community that follows US laws.
Even more, we believe our entire industry should be held to an exceptionally high standard. That’s why we believe all companies should disclose their algorithms, moderation policies, and data flows to regulators. 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. Experts can observe our moderation policies in real-time, as well as examine the actual code that drives our algorithms. This puts us a step ahead of the industry, and we encourage others to follow suit.
Beyond our commitment to accountability, we also believe all players in the industry should make a positive impact in the community. Our $200 million Creator Fund will help American creators get the most out of TikTok, and we expect that this will grow to over $1 billion in the US in the next 3 years, and more than double that globally. In addition to supporting these creative entrepreneurs, we are also on track to create 10,000 new TikTok jobs across the US.
At TikTok we welcome competition. We think fair competition makes all of us better. To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on. 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.
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.
We are willing to take all necessary steps to ensure the long-term availability and success of TikTok. The one thing that will not change is our commitment to ensuring that TikTok remains a safe and secure platform for the tens of millions of American families that derive joy from it.
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.