Tech

Mark Zuckerberg reportedly warned President Trump about the rise of Chinese tech firms

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Key Points
  • Behind the scenes, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stoked Washington fears about TikTok, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • The report says Zuckerberg told President Donald Trump at a White House dinner that Chinese tech firms pose a direct threat to the U.S. companies. 

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Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., arrives for a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., Oct. 23, 2019.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned President Donald Trump at a White House dinner last October that Chinese tech firms posed a direct threat to the U.S. business, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter. 

Zuckerberg is said to have argued that clamping down on these firms should be more of a priority than reining in Facebook. 

Around the time of the dinner, Zuckerberg warned U.S. officials and lawmakers that Chinese tech firms pose a risk to American values and the nation's technological dominance. The tech mogul is also said to have pointed out that TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, doesn't share Facebook's commitment to freedom of expression. 

Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — who met Zuckerberg in September — called for an inquiry into TikTok in October. A national security review was launched soon after, and Trump signed an executive order to ban the app this month citing national security concerns. TikTok confirmed over the weekend that it has launched a legal appeal against the ban. 

TikTok presents major competition to Facebook's business. The social video-sharing app, which has boomed in popularity in recent months, competes directly with Instagram. Given the size of TikTok's audience, it's possible companies would rather pay for advertising space on TikTok than on Instagram or Facebook. 

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday that Zuckerberg has "zero influence" when it comes to TikTok and that the report has "zero credibility." 

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Trump advisor Peter Navarro says Mark Zuckerberg had 'zero influence' over White House TikTok decision

A Facebook spokesperson told CNBC on Monday: "Mark has never advocated for a ban on TikTok. He has repeatedly said publicly that the biggest competitors to U.S. tech companies are Chinese companies, with values that don't align with democratic ideals like free speech. It's ludicrous to suggest that long-standing national security concerns — raised by policymakers on both sides of the aisle — have been shaped by Mark's statements alone." 

Read The Wall Street Journal's full report here

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