Facebook reportedly paying for smear campaign against TikTok over “dangerous” trends

TikTok and Facebook logos on plain black backgroundTikTok/Facebook

Facebook are reportedly paying a huge consulting firm to run a smear campaign against popular video app TikTok, calling it “a threat to American children.”

TikTok has become one of the most popular apps on the planet in recent years, with small creators all the way up to global corporations sharing content on the platform in order to boost their social footprint.

While TikTok has faced controversy in the past — with threats of it even being banned by the former United States president — it is being reported that Facebook is working to make matters worse for the ByteDance-owned app.

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Targeted Victory, a consulting firm that works extensively within the United States’ political spectrum, has reportedly been called upon by Facebook parent company Meta to boost messages besmirching TikTok as a threat, due to “dangerous” viral trends.

Targeted Victory logoTargeted Victory
Targeted Victory is reportedly working with Meta to drive campaigns against TikTok.

As reported by The Washington Post, Facebook’s campaign against TikTok includes “planting Meta-approved op-eds in major regional news outlets from ‘concerned parents,’ promoting dubious stories about ‘TikTok trends,’ and pushing to draw political reporters, politicians into the fight,” explained reporter Taylor Lorenz.

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“We need to get the message out that while Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat especially as a foreign-owned app that is #1 in sharing data that young teens are using,” one member of staff reportedly said.

The firm allegedly worked to amplify negative TikTok coverage with links to dubious local news stories citing TikTok as the origin of dangerous teen trends, which partners were encouraged to replicate in their own markets.

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TikTok logo on dark backgroundUnplash: Eyestetix Studio
The rise of TikTok in recent years has made way for a number of different trends.

Emails obtained by the Post show how “the firm has effectively promoted its anti-TikTok messaging without revealing that it came from a firm working on Meta’s behalf. None of the op-eds or letters to the editor were published with any indication that the Meta-funded group had been involved.”

The report also suggests that many of the TikTok trends deemed “dangerous” actually originated on Facebook.

A TikTok spokesperson told The Washington Post that they are “deeply concerned” about “the stoking of local media reports on alleged trends that have not been found on the platform.”

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Targeted Victory responds

Dexerto has since received a statement from Targeted Victory CEO Zac Moffatt.

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

In a Twitter thread, the chief also claimed The Washington Post’s story “mischaracterized” the work they do.

He tweeted: “Today’s Washington Post story not only mischaracterizes the work we do, but key points are simply false. We tried to reach out to The Washington Post to further talk through them, but never got a response.”

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Moffatt claims that the original story omitted a statement he provided, too – reposting it to Twitter in a string of seven messages.

“The story infers that the words of the letters to the editor were not the authors’ own, nor did they know of Meta’s involvement,” Moffatt continued. “That is false. They will confirm that. We had hoped to not have them included in this manufactured story out of respect for their personal privacy.”

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Dexerto will continue to update this story as it develops. 

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