Time for some predictable plot twists: it turns out Facebook had something to do with all this Trump-TikTok drama. Which adds credence to the faint possibility that TikTok’s rivals are looking to inhibit its growth by any means necessary. The WSJ reports Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg already started setting the stage for this ongoing chaos last year. And he wasn’t exactly subtle about it, either; he outright equated TikTok to an enemy of free speech. No need to guess which company he personified as free speech incarnate.
All of this happened back in fall and was part of a prepared speech Zuckerberg gave to Georgetown University students. Of course, Facebook’s chief had other reasons to be in Washington, D.C. late last year. In fact, he held a similar speech just a couple of weeks prior and couple of doors down the road. Several times, in fact, Washington insiders claim, when he met with lawmakers and other high-ranking government officials in 2019.
Zuckerberg’s essentially been playing the patriotism card ever since. All to paint the TikTok threat to Facebook as ideological, first and foremost. Which is pretty silly, all things considered. As itself Facebook can attest, explosive social media growth obsesses over money for years before it can force itself to look in any other direction, let alone one as abstract as ideologies. That didn’t stop him from making the case against TikTok, of course. And how could it? That was just good business sense. Especially when he got the chance to repeat that same song and dance for Trump personally during a dinner in October, the report reveals.
Even if Trump’s worst TikTok fears are true – is Facebook really the leading the defense on Team Freedom?
Remember that the Trump administration and Facebook had a turbulent love-hate relationship since the campaign trail. Zuckerberg changed his position on the role his company played in getting Trump elected more times than he consolidated power within that same company. Which was like, his favorite pastime over the last decade. Likewise, he’s been having some consistency issues regarding the responsibility Facebook has to ensure the 2016 fiasco doesn’t happen again. Lately, he doesn’t appear to believe there is any. Or any that would be of significant consequence if he just ignored it.
It’s also curious to witness how Facebook went from saying it’s “crazy” to apologize for Trump to apologizing for Trump to apologizing for Trump, all in a span of a few years. Naturally, that last bit refers to how Facebook’s current stance is that it won’t “arbiter truth” regardless of any hurt feelings. A noble hill to die on, if it wasn’t climbed in response to calls for fact-checking the sitting President in the vein Twitter started doing so. According to Facebook, interjecting political speech, even if it’s just to label inaccuracy or insencirity, is such a huge attack on free speech that it might as well be called TikTok. In doing so, it created a false dichotomy wherein the only choices are watching as its platform propagates lies and banning people from it altogether.
So, try to have some salt ready for when Facebook next paints itself a bastion of free speech. Not that TikTok isn’t necessarily a threat to it. But if it’s Facebook who’s leading the defense on Team Free Speech, the future is getting bleaker by the day. Because there’s nothing in the Constitution about Mark Zuckerberg defending free speech. It’s just that fact-checking the President would be detrimental to Zuckerberg’s ambitions. It’s inevitable that at some point, Facebook will change course once again. Likely once it needs to rationalize a seemingly incompatible behavior stemming from another one of his CEO’s beliefs about changing the world.