Facebook Paid GOP Firm To Campaign Against TikTok

Facebook, namely its parent company Meta, has been paying a Republican consulting firm to run a hate campaign against its rival social media platform TikTok, The Washington Post alleges.

According to the article, which was published on Wednesday, March 30, the firm, Targeted Victory, reportedly used multiple tactics to target TikTok, a platform notoriously popular with Generation Z users. In contrast, Facebook has not only been shedding active users, but has increasingly struggled to lure back teens who have largely abandoned it in favor of newer alternatives. The smear campaign supposedly included writing letters to the editors of various news companies in hopes of boosting negative coverage about TikTok and risky trends that allegedly started on the platform.

In an email written in February, Targeted Victory's director reportedly said the firm needed to present TikTok as an actual threat at a time when Facebook was getting so much negative attention, doing so by, among other things, emphasizing the fact it is owned by a Chinese company.

Targeted Victory isn't the first GOP entity to go after TikTok for that reason. In late 2020, President Donald Trump threatened to ban the platform if its Chinese parent company ByteDance didn't sell it to an American company within 45 days. At that time, the US Department of Commerce accused ByteDance of threatening national security by collecting American citizens' personal data and selling it to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). President Joe Biden revoked the ban in the summer of 2021.

Targeted Victory's alleged campaign against TikTok

The Washington Post reported that Targeted Victory went to great lengths to promote negative coverage about TikTok, putting particular emphasis on teen trends alleged to have started on the platform, though the report claims some of them, at least, have their origins on Facebook. The firm didn't comment on the allegations, but it did tell WaPo it has worked with Facebook for years. TikTok, for its part, expressed ample concern about the allegations in its own statement.

Assuming the leak is accurate, it would seem Targeted Victory attempted to leverage both the media and politicians as part of its attack on the platform. On March 12, 2022, the report alleges, the firm sent a letter to the editor of the Denver Post from a concerned parent named Kevin Burns claiming TikTok was harmful to children's mental health. This same letter praised the attorneys general from multiple states, particularly Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, for their investigation of the platform and the supposed harm it may cause.

Beyond that, the report goes on to claim several other tactics were used as part of this alleged effort, including an attempt to boost a fake teen TikTok challenge called "Slap a Teacher." All the while, Targeted Victory reportedly also dedicated time to seeding positive news and claims about Facebook to various media outlets ranging from television to traditional radio and local news agencies.

 Targeted Victory is one of the biggest vendors for GOP campaigns, earning over $230 million in 2020. Some of its favorite customers include America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC.