TikTok parent ByteDance accuses Facebook of 'plagiarism and smear' as it goes on the front foot

Key Points
  • ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, accused Facebook on Monday of "plagiarism and smear," without elaborating on the statement.
  • Facebook has tried to create rival products including Lasso and Instagram Reels. 
  • The comments came hours before Microsoft confirmed that it was in talks with ByteDance to buy part of TikTok's business. 

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TikTok logo is seen displayed on a phone screen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on November 13, 2019. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, accused Facebook of "plagiarism and smear," as it looks to go on the front foot following continued pressure on its business from the U.S. 

Late Sunday, the Beijing-based firm said that it is "committed to becoming a global company" but it has faced "all kinds of complex and unimaginable difficulties," according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese statement. 

These include an "intense international political environment, the collision and conflict of different cultures, and the plagiarism and smear of competitor Facebook," the company said. 

ByteDance did not elaborate on the statement but said it was mainly aimed at its domestic Chinese audience. Facebook was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC. 

ByteDance released its statement before Microsoft confirmed that it is in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke to President Donald Trump regarding a potential purchase of TikTok in the U.S., the company said. And the technology giant is exploring a purchase of TikTok in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well. 

TikTok has faced multiple accusations from Washington of scooping up American user data to send back to the Chinese government. TikTok has repeatedly denied that it does this.

And before Microsoft announced its discussions to acquire part of TikTok, Trump said he would ban the social media app. Tensions between the U.S. and China have been rising with technology becoming one of the sectors caught in the middle of what some commentators have dubbed a "new Cold War."

Meanwhile, Facebook, which is facing competitive pressures from TikTok, has tried to create rival products. Lasso, which was shut down last month, allowed people to record videos up to 15 seconds long and overlay music on top. And now Facebook is gearing up to launch another short video product called Instagram Reels

Last week, TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, who was hired in May from Disney, called out Facebook. 

"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," he said in a blog post.

"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's comments came after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg touted the social network as being "a proudly American company," in prepared remarks ahead of his testimony before the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust last Wednesday.