Trump says TikTok ban would empower Meta, slams Facebook

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Former President Donald Trump: I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Monday raised concerns about efforts to ban Chinese-owned social media app TikTok in the U.S., saying it would only serve to empower Meta‘s Facebook platform.

“Without TikTok, you can make Facebook bigger, and I consider Facebook to be an enemy of the people,” Trump, who was formerly U.S. president between 2017 and 2021, said in an interview Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Acknowledging his concerns around national security and data privacy over TikTok, Trump said, “there’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad” with the platform.

“There are a lot of people on TikTok that love it. There are a lot of young kids on TikTok who will go crazy without it,” Trump said.

CNBC has reached out to Meta for comment.

TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, has exploded in popularity over the last few years, becoming an international sensation with its short videos.

It has also led regulators to fear that the software’s Chinese ownership would mean that it could share private user data at the request of the Beijing government.

ByteDance, like other Chinese companies, would be forced to disclose such information if asked to do so, experts say. China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 requires organizations and citizens to “support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”

In 2020, the Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to have TikTok removed from app stores in the U.S. due to these concerns. Trump subsequently ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok within 90 days. This effort, which at one point saw Microsoft put a bid in for TikTok’s U.S. business, also never came to fruition.

Ongoing concerns

Now, U.S. lawmakers are once again stepping up efforts to tackle concerns surrounding TikTok, with separate pieces of legislation proposing either a divestiture of TikTok by ByteDance, or a full ban. Incumbent President Joe Biden, who has expressed national security concerns over TikTok, has also said he would sign a bill to ban the app, if Congress passes it.

Trump has recently softened his tone, saying he fears a TikTok ban would only serve to make Facebook more powerful.

In Monday’s interview, Trump said that he feels TikTok remains a national security risk, given its Chinese ownership — but he also deflected attention to Facebook, noting that the platform has similar issues concerning privacy and security.

“If China wants anything from [TikTo], they will give it, so that’s a national security risk [that] goes up,” Trump acknowledged. “But when I look at it, I’m not looking to make Facebook double the size. And if you ban TikTok, Facebook and others — but mostly Facebook — will be a big beneficiary, and I think Facebook has been very busy.”

“I think Facebook has been very bad for our country, especially when it comes to elections,” Trump added.

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