Explainer: Facebook and TikTok’s tense history

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Facebook’s just escalated a fight with TikTok with yesterdays official launch of its new short-video feature Reels, a service embedded within ultra popular Instagram app.

The introduction arrived at a fraught moment for TikTok, which has come under threat of a ban by the White House, prompting China’s ByteDance to weigh a sale of the app and its US operations to Microsoft Corp.

Here’s a look at the tense tangle between heavyweight Facebook and upstart TikTok.

  • Before China’s ByteDance acquired Shanghai-based start-up Musical.ly in 2017 and turned it into TikTok, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg attempted to buy the app, BuzzFeed has reported. A source familiar with the effort confirmed the talks to journalists at our partner news agency, Reuters. Discussions ultimately stalled, and by 2018 Facebook executives believed TikTok wasn’t retaining US users long-term, another source said.
  • In mid-2018, ByteDance started an aggressive push aimed at growing TikTok’s US footprint, surging app-install advertisements on Facebook’s advertising network. At the peak, it was responsible for nearly 22 percent of all such ads on US Apple devices, according to data from Sensor Tower. It cut in 2019 after TikTok gained a following and shifted to building an ads business to compete against Facebook.
  • As Facebook came under pressure in Washington, it pushed back on calls to regulate US tech business by invoking the spectre of an internet dominated by Chinese firms. The US government initiated a national security review of Utterance’s Musical.ly acquisition late last year, after lawmakers expressed concerns around data security and censorship.
  • With the launching of Reels, Facebook is offering similar performance to TikTok from inside Instagram, which boasts enormous user amounts. The business recruited young TikTok celebrities to utilise. In a blog post, TikTok’s new CEO dismissed Reels as a “copycat product” and slammed Facebook because of its “maligning attacks… disguised as patriotism.”
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The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed the ‘Explainer: Facebook and TikTok’s tense history‘ article. Initial reporting via our content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Katie Paul, Echo Wang and Sheila Dang.

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