TikTok’s ban should’ve come as welcome news for rival social media companies, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is apparently not particularly thrilled with the move.
Mark Zuckerberg has expressed worry over TikTok’s ban in India to his employees, The Verge has reported. Zuckerberg is apparently concerned that if the Indian government could ban TikTok, which had 200 million users in India, it could also conceivably one day ban Facebook. Facebook has already benefited from TikTok’s ban — days after TikTok was banned, it launched its competitors Reels on Instagram in India, but Zuckberg is concerned that India could day day mete out the the same treatment to one of its own apps.
And Zuckerberg has reason to be worried — it has been in the crosshairs of the Indian government and establishment for a while now. It had proposed the ambitious Free Basics scheme in India in 2016, but after an outcry around how Facebook’s plan to give out free internet access could result in the creation of walled gardens with Facebook acting as the gatekeeper, the move was eventually shelved. Facebook had tried to lobby with the government to get its plan through, but was overruled by TRAI. There were also concerns during the last election about how Facebook was handling the fake news on its platform, and it was forced to tie up with several “fact-checkers” to try to give the appearance that it was clamping down on fake news.
Facebook has been stung by government regulation in the past. When Facebook had planned to launch its ambitious Libra currency, after governments around the world appeared to demur, several of its partners backed out, and the project appears to not be currently making any headway. Just recently, Facebook had planned to launch a digital payments system in Brazil on the top of WhatsApp, but was forced to suspend the service within days after the Brazilian Central Bank raised objections.
As such, it’s understandable how TikTok’s India ban could make Zuckerberg nervous. The Indian ban on Chinese apps came after a conflict with China in which soldiers lost lives, and it’s not inconceivable if tensions between India and the US were ever to rise, American apps might end up being on the firing line. The US has increasingly been using economic means like tariffs to fight diplomatic battles — after India’s ban, it appears that apps are now also fair game.