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Top Meta exec Nick Clegg blasts TikTok over China ‘values’


A top executive for Meta slammed rival platform TikTok as a “Chinese company” with questionable values that merit close scrutiny from Western authorities.

Nick Clegg, Meta’s head of global affairs, pointed out the hypocrisy of allowing the platform to flourish in the US while social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are banned in the Communist country.

 “TikTok, a hugely successful, highly dynamic and innovative Chinese company, is able to operate in the United States, but companies like Meta are not able to operate our social media services in China,” Clegg said in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday.

“So there is this issue of a kind of lack of a level playing field,” he added. “And in the end, there’s always an underlying issue of values: What values are the underpinning of new technologies.”

While TikTok is a subsidiary of Beijing-based ByteDance, the company’s executives have scrambled to portray its operations as independent from those of its parent company — and from interference by the Chinese Communist Party.

TikTok is not available in China, where the government censors US-owned platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Clegg’s comments came as Republicans and Democrats call for TikTok to be banned in the US due to concerns about national security and its potentially harmful effects on underage users.

Clegg argued there is a “pretty profound difference in values” dictating how the Chinese government approaches technology compared to the US and other Western nations.

He pointed to recent advancements in the field of artificial intelligence, which has sparked calls from regulators throughout the world for increased regulation.


Nick Clegg took aim at TikTok during a Bloomberg interview.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“China has already taken a very different path and wants to pursue a very different path based on very different values, where issues of individual data privacy and so on simply don’t loom as large in China as they do in the United States, North America, Europe and so on,” Clegg added.

The Meta executive also called for democratic nations to come up with a clear roadmap to ensure that fledging technologies match their values.


TikTok
TikTok executives say the company’s operations are independent from China.
Christopher Sadowski

“I can guarantee you these very powerful new technologies are going to be used by autocrats around the world for their own purposes — and I think we need to do something quite different,” he said.

TikTok has staged an unsuccessful attempt to assuage US lawmakers’ concerns by shifting all US user data to servers controlled by Oracle, among other measures. The app is immensely popular, with more than 150 million users in the US alone.


AFP via Getty Images

Meta has clear incentives to push for closer scrutiny of TikTok’s business.

TikTok has emerged as a major challenger for Meta, which has faced criticism for shifting resources toward the metaverse despite rising competition for its core social media business.

Meta has taken steps to make its Facebook and Instagram feeds more like TikTok, with a focus on more short-form video content.


Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg is Meta’s head of global affairs.
AFP via Getty Images

In February 2022, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees that the company faced an “unprecedented level of competition” from TikTok, according to Bloomberg.

Last year, the Washington Post reported that Meta had taken direct aim at TikTok by hiring a consulting firm to push negative stories about the platform.



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