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A TikTok ban would be a win for Mark Zuckerberg

Katie Notopoulos   

A TikTok ban would be a win for Mark Zuckerberg
  • A new version of a "TikTok ban" just passed the House bundled with a foreign-aid bill.
  • TikTok having to sell to a US buyer or shut down would be a win for Instagram and YouTube.

Everything's coming up Zuck — again. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg will very likely end up the ultimate winner in the most recent push to force a sale or ban of Chinese-owned TikTok.

The House passed a TikTok "ban" or forced sale as part of a bill on military aid for Ukraine and Israel. Even if President Joe Biden signs the bill, it'll likely face a court battle, so you probably don't need to worry about TikTok disappearing from your phone anytime soon.

But almost any outcome here is at least initially good news for Instagram's Reels, owned by Zuckerberg's Meta, and YouTube's Shorts, owned by Alphabet — TikTok's main competitors.

We know that Meta has been pushing to amplify concerns over TikTok since at least 2022 when it paid a Republican consulting firm to create an influence campaign to play up fears that TikTok is bad for children and teens. A year ago, BI's Grace Kay wrote that TikTok legislation would be like "an early Christmas present" for Zuckerberg.

If TikTok, for some reason, couldn't operate in the US any longer, it'd leave a lot of eyeballs up for grabs — and people would just shift their habits to watching videos on another app. (And to some degree, they already have — Reels has actually become good and popular lately, after being a crummy backwater initially. Instagram had more growth and downloads last year than TikTok, and after Instagram faced an existential crisis, it's having a surprising comeback.)

Creators, many of whom are already posting on those other platforms, will also adjust. In that way, YouTube may come out a winner — YouTube's way of paying creators by a straight ad revenue split is more creator-friendly than Instagram, where the algorithm and payments are more mercurial. (Just look at how much time Instagram head Adam Mosseri spends on Threads running customer service for disgruntled creators.)

Still, although Instagram and YouTube would certainly benefit from absorbing more users and attention if TikTok were no more, there's also a potential not-so-rosy side for Meta and Alphabet: Big Tech companies may not be enthusiastic about the government passing highly restrictive legislation on how a social media company can operate.

If ByteDance ends up selling TikTok to a US company, it's hard to imagine it will be a smooth transition. For one thing, it's unclear if ByteDance will allow TikTok's algorithm — the thing that makes it so good in the first place — to be included in the sale.

That means you might end up in a situation like former US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin trying to build his own algorithm for a US-owned TikTok, which … good luck, buddy! I imagine that Zuck would be thrilled with this outcome.

Perhaps Hot Zuck Summer is heating up again!

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