New report says Facebook’s Meta funded attack campaign against TikTok
- A new article from The Washington Post says the tech giant promoted negative stories about the video sharing platform by portraying it as a danger to American children
- Its consulting firm also allegedly alerted journalists and politicians to supposed dangerous trends on the app, videos of which cannot be found
A new report from The Washington Post, partially confirmed by Agence France-Presse, says that Facebook’s owner Meta hired a consulting firm to carry out a US campaign denigrating its fierce rival TikTok.
The campaign reportedly included placing letters in major US news outlets and promoting negative stories about TikTok, allegedly using the type of tough tactics familiar to Washington politics.
Meta, which shed hundreds of billions in value earlier this year due to doubts about its future, is in a pitched fight against the video sharing platform popular with young social media fans.
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“We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success,” Meta told Agence France-Presse in a one-line statement in response to the article.
The consulting firm, Targeted Victory, confirmed having worked for Meta and did not deny having put forward negative information about TikTok.
“We’re proud of the work we’ve done to highlight the dangers of TikTok,” the firm’s CEO Zac Moffatt tweeted.
Employees at Targeted Victory worked to undermine TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, by promoting an effort to have it portrayed as a danger to American children, The Washington Post reported, citing the firm’s internal emails.
One message was quoted as saying Targeted Victory needed 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 effort reportedly included getting parents to sign on to letters raising concerns that were submitted to US newspapers, some of which published them.
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Targeted Victory also alerted elected officials and journalists to alleged trends on TikTok that encouraged students to vandalise their school premises, known as “devious licks” or the “slap a teacher” challenge.
The “challenge” urging young users to attack teachers did not start on TikTok, but on Facebook, according to an investigation by the Reply All podcast, with the investigator unable to find any videos on this topic on TikTok.
“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 told Agence France-Presse in a statement.
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Moffatt, the Targeted Victory CEO, also argued the article “mischaracterises the work we do,” citing examples including the characterisation of people who signed the letters sent to newspapers.
“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. That is false,” he tweeted.
When contacted by Agence France-Presse, the people cited as signing the letters did not respond to requests for comment.