Facebook hired company to spread negative stories on TikTok, report says

Facebook paid a right-wing consulting firm to discredit TikTok, according to a new report.

According to The Washington PostFacebook’s parent company, Meta, hired a company called Targeted Victory to run negative articles and letters about the Chinese app in major newspapers.

According to company emails obtained by the To postTargeted Victory told its employees to “send the message that if Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat, especially as a foreign app that’s #1 in sharing data that young people teenagers use”.

TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has become a fierce competitor to Facebook. Last year, TikTok overtook Facebook and even Google as the most visited website in the world, and the app itself sometimes garnered more downloads than Facebook or Instagram (also owned by Meta). Meanwhile, Facebook has been hemorrhaging users.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that Meta is going to extreme measures to fight back – but this latest tactic is more typical in politics than technology. Targeted Victory began as an adviser to Republican candidates and still receives hundreds of millions of dollars from GOP campaigns. Its CEO, Zac Moffatt, was the digital director of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.

Now, according to the emails, the To post unearthed, the firm works for Facebook. The report paints the picture of a relentless campaign to damage TikTok’s image in the news and, where possible, distract from Facebook’s own problems.

“Bonus point if we can fit this into a larger message that current bills/proposals are not where [state attorneys general] or members of Congress should be focused,” a Targeted Victory employee wrote to other agents.

“Any local examples of bad TikTok trends/stories in your markets?” another asked. “The dream would be to have stories with titles like ‘Danger Dances: How TikTok Became the Most Harmful Social Media Space for Kids.'”

According to To post, the company even managed to start a rumor that a “Slap a Teacher” challenge had emerged on TikTok, prompting alarmed warnings from schools, police and local news outlets. But according to a report by Insider, the challenge never existed and rumors about it started on Facebook.

In an email to The Independentthe CEO of Targeted Victory defended his company.

“Targeted Victory’s corporate practice manages bipartisan teams on behalf of our clients,” Moffatt said. “It is common knowledge that we have worked with Meta for several years and we are proud of the work we have done.”

The CEO also denounced Posts report in a Twitter feedclaiming that Targeted Victory’s teams are bipartisan, that rumors about TikTok came from outside news sources, and that the company was open about Meta’s involvement in letters it sent to newspaper editors.

“Today Washington Post not only misrepresents the work we do, but the key points are just plain wrong,” Moffatt wrote. “We are proud of the work we have done to highlight the dangers of TikTok.”

A Meta spokesperson also defended the campaign.

“We believe that all platforms, including TikTok, should be given the scrutiny consistent with their growing success,” said Meta representative Andy Stone. To post.

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