Meta hired one of the largest right-leaning consulting firms to wage a national campaign to turn public opinion against TikTok, the Washington Post reportsas Facebook, which has seen dwindling engagement from younger age groups, attempts to win back young users from its biggest competitor.
Targeted Victory, a digital consulting firm started by a digital director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, worked on a push to portray TikTok as an app that is harmful to its young users and society, according to to internal company emails obtained and reviewed by the Post,
The ongoing campaign includes promoting unconfirmed stories about purported TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, placing op-eds and letters to the editor in news outlets and pushing lawmakers to take on TikTok, the Post reports.
An alleged TikTok trend Targeted Victory reportedly was amplified by the “devious licks” challenge, which showed children vandalizing school property, leading Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to ask TikTok executives to testify before a Senate subcommittee on how the app had been used to “promote behavior and actions that encourage harmful and destructive acts,” though a Gimlet investigation found the trend originated on Facebook.
The Post reports Targeted Victory also worked to spread claims of a TikTok “slap a teacher” challenge in local media outlets—but an Insider report found the rumor of the challenge initially began on Facebook and did not exist on TikTok.
According to an email viewed by the Posta Targeted Victory staffer wrote the firm needs to “get the message out that while Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat.”
Targeted Victory said in a statement to Forbes the company “manages bipartisan teams on behalf of our clients” and has worked with Meta for several years, saying the company is “proud of the work we have done,” while a Meta spokesperson told Forbes “We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.”