Facebook once tried to buy Musical.ly, the Chinese lip-syncing app which was eventually acquired by Chinese social media giant ByteDance and merged with its app Douyin to form viral video app TikTok, according to reports from BuzzFeed and Bloomberg.
Three sources familiar with the talks told BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac that Facebook spent the second half of 2016 trying to buy the Shanghai-headquartered Musical.ly in an attempt to break into the Chinese market. These sources said that while the talks were “serious” they never came to frutition with Facebook unable to close the deal.
ByteDance bought Musical.ly in 2017.
Bloomberg’s reporting differs, with a source saying that Facebook walked away out of “concern about the app’s young user base and Chinese ownership.”
The reports add a slightly different tenor to Mark Zuckerberg’s recent remarks about TikTok and China.
The Facebook CEO has been sounding the alarm against TikTok, criticizing the platform for censoring its users and scrubbing content that might displease the Chinese government. TikTok has denied censorship.
At the same time US senators are starting to scrutinise ByteDance and TikTok more closely. Earlier this month the company skipped a senate hearing on China and big tech, and were consequently “empty-chaired.”