Meta allegedly hired a political consulting agency to “undermine” TikTok, according to the CEO of a political consulting business.
According to internal emails obtained by the Washington Post, Targeted Victory’s effort attempted to portray TikTok “as a menace to American children.”
The Post’s piece misrepresented their study, according to Zac Moffatt, and “major parts are plain wrong.”
“We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should receive a level of scrutiny appropriate with their rising success,” a spokeswoman said.
The “bare-knuckle” strategy allegedly includes “pushing false articles about claimed TikTok trends that really began on Facebook” through opinion pieces and letters to the editor in US regional news sites, according to the Post writers.
According to the article, none of the opinion pieces or letters to the editor disclosed that they were pushed by a Meta-funded group.
Mr Moffat tweeted in response to the report, saying: “The story implies that the authors did not write the letters to the editor themselves, and that they were unaware of Meta’s participation. That is untrue. That will be confirmed by them.”
Targeted Victory allegedly pressured its partners to get reports into local media linking TikTok to harmful tendencies in internal emails, according to the publication.
One Targeted Victory staff member reportedly stated in an email shared by the Post, “Dream would be to generate stories with titles like ‘From dances to danger: how TikTok has become the most detrimental social media environment for kids.”
Targeted Victory allegedly urged agents to publicize allegations of harmful TikTok trends, according to the article.
This included stories of a rumored Slap a Teacher challenge, which an investigation by news site Insider showed did not exist, and a rumored Devious Licks challenge, which promoted destruction to school property.
According to the Post, journalistic investigations revealed that reports about both challenges began to circulate on Facebook.
Following the posting of the video, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a significant US teaching organization, accused Facebook of fueling the fires of Devious Licks and terrified “teachers, students, and parents throughout America as a result.”
TikTok itself mirrored these concerns. “We are gravely concerned that the fueling of local media stories on supposed patterns that have not been detected on the platform might cause real world harm,” the business said in reaction to the piece.
In response to the piece, technology writer Casey Newton wrote in his newsletter Platformer that the effect extended beyond discomfort and risked motivating individuals to take on the ostensibly difficult problems.
He added, “Even the possibility that Meta inspired such copycats should have been enough to destroy this project while it was still being white-boarded.”
Mr Moffatt claimed on Twitter that The Post had reported on the alleged TikTok challenges.
Mr Moffatt claimed Targeted Victory handled “bipartisan teams,” despite the fact that the company advertises itself as “right-of-centre.”
Following charges that the company altered with its Trending Topics function to boost “progressive” ideas, Mr Moffatt met with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2016 as part of a group of high-profile conservative leaders.
Mr. Moffatt’s work with Meta is now the focus of attention. However, this isn’t the first time that the techniques of companies hired by the social media behemoth have been questioned.
The New York Times disclosed strategies employed by Definers, a public relations firm hired by Facebook, in 2018.
According to the article, the business disseminated a document falsely alleging that the investor George Soros sponsored the anti-Facebook campaign organization Freedom From Facebook.
Mr Zuckerberg stated that he was unaware of the Definers’ activity and that the business would no longer collaborate with them.