Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Why Facebook Passed on Buying the Predecessor to TikTok

  • U.S. company worried about child privacy and a base in China
  • Both Facebook and TikTok now face government scrutiny
Facebook App And Logo As Crisis Reignites Washington Scrutiny Of Social Networks
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Updated on

Facebook Inc. held talks over several months in 2016 to determine whether to buy, a rival app that would eventually evolve into global teen video sensation TikTok.

Facebook ultimately walked away out of concern about the app’s young user base and Chinese ownership, according to a person familiar with the matter. But its interest back then may be pertinent to current government inquiries into Facebook’s history of pursuing and buying out competitors. Discussions started three years ago when Kevin Systrom, then chief executive officer of photo-sharing platform Instagram, visited Shanghai on an unrelated trip and met with’s founders, the person said. ByteDance Inc. -- now the world’s largest startup -- ended up acquiring the service for $800 million.