Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has been actively participating in US politics lately, and now, there is a report that he is trying to influence policies against competing social media apps and a privacy-driven tech company.
A recent report by The Wall Street Journal details the political ambitions of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerburg to persuade the current White House administration to scrutinize Apple and TikTok. The information shared with the publishers reveals that Zuckerberg was in close contact with the U.S President Donald Trump, his adviser Jared Kushner and other government officials, pressing on them to tighten the noose around the very popular Chinese photos and videos sharing app, TikTok and Silicon Valley’s tech giant, Apple.
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg pushes US administration against Apple and TikTok
Based on the intel provided by people familiar with the communications between Facebook’s CEO and U.S government officials, it is reported that Zuckerberg “specifically” focused on Apple and called on the high-ranks in the administration to scrutinize it.
“Mr. Zuckerberg has also told government officials Apple doesn’t receive as much scrutiny as Facebook even though it owns an operating system used by a large percentage of Americans, people familiar with the discussions said.”
This claim is corroborated by a recent interview the Facebook CEO gave to Axios on HBO. Criticizing Apple’s App Store policies, Zuckerberg said that the iPhone maker’s control over its digital marketplace has created a “monopoly” and that “deserves scrutiny”.
“Some of their behavior certainly raises questions, I think it is something that deserves scrutiny and they are getting scrutiny for it.”
Previously, he had also attacked Apple for charging a 30% commission rate on the App Store at an internal meeting. Calling it “Apple Tax”, he said in the meeting that Apple’s “unique stranglehold as a gatekeeper on what gets on phones. It blocks innovation, blocks competition, and allows Apple to charge monopoly rents.”
It is also claimed that Zuckerburg held a discussion with the White House’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin over the presence of TikTok in the United States. The report associates the need for political backing by Zuckerberg as a survival strategy for his platform in midst of scrutiny over privacy concerns and competition.
“Mr. Zuckerberg’s new political moves are part of an effort to protect his company from pressures that range from antitrust scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic to criticism of its privacy practices and of its role in disseminating misinformation and conspiracy theories. Facebook is also facing new competitive threats from the likes of ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok. Forging relationships with political leaders, media personalities and activists is now critical to Facebook’s continued primacy in social media.”
A Facebook spokesperson said that “any insinuation that [Mr Zuckerberg] encouraged the Administration to ban TikTok is false.”
Although the report does not mention the time frame of the alleged correspondence, in August, President Trump banned the app via an executive order calling it a national security risk. Later, the President also included another Chinese social platform, WeChat in the ban.
In regards to Apple, the Chairman of the U.S house Judiciary Anti-trust subcommittee suggested the implementation of “Glass-Steagall for the internet” to separate Apple and App Store to reduce the company’s control over the distribution of apps on iOS devices to promote competition in the industry. However, this suggestion was opposed by the Republican members of the committee.
All in all, the Anti-trust committee which was investigating the business practices and policies of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon concluded that the American tech giants have established “kinds of monopolies like the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons” that take advantage of small businesses and competition.