How Facebook Paid GOP firm to smear rival company, TikTok
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has reportedly hired a Republican consulting firm to run a media and lobbying campaign to disparage rival social media platform TikTok.
As TikTok grows in popularity, now at more than 1 billion monthly active users, Meta is paying the GOP-linked firm Targeted Victory to paint the short-form video sharing app as dangerous and “the real threat,” The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing internal emails.
The campaign reportedly includes op-eds in major regional outlets, promoting “promoting dubious stories” about TikTok to reporters and pushing local politicians to be critical of TikTok. The firm is reportedly aiming to attribute harmful, teen-targeted social media challenges, such as “devious licks,” to TikTok, even though they also appeared on other social networks. Targeted Victory in October pushed local news to cover a purported “Slap a Teacher” TikTok challenge, The Washington Post reported, but the challenge didn’t exist on the app.
“We are deeply concerned that the stoking of local media reports on alleged trends that have not been found on the platform could cause real world harm,” TikTok said in a statement.
Facebook previously worked with Targeted Victory on its Community Boast roadshow and ad transparency efforts, TechCrunch reported in 2018. In a statement on Wednesday, Targeted Victory CEO Zac Moffatt said the firm has worked with Meta for years.
“It is public knowledge we have worked with Meta for several years and we are proud of the work we have done,” Moffatt said.
Lawmakers have accused both TikTok and Meta of endangering children’s welfare. In August, TikTok bulked up its safety features for teen users, and earlier this month Meta announced new parental controls for Instagram.
A Meta spokesperson said the company “believes all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.”