Facebook paid GOP firm to smear TikTok, says new report

Mark Zuckerberg in front of the Facebook logo
Mark Zuckerberg in front of the Facebook logo (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • A new report says Facebook paid for a smear campaign against TikTok.
  • It allegedly hired GOP digital consulting firm Targeted Victory to undermine TikTok in the U.S.

A new report says that Facebook's parent company Meta paid a GOP firm to smear TikTok in a nationwide campaign.

From The Washington Post:

Facebook parent company Meta is paying one of the biggest Republican consulting firms in the country to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok.The campaign includes placing op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor. These bare-knuckle tactics, long commonplace in the world of politics, have become increasingly noticeable within a tech industry where companies vie for cultural relevance and come at a time when Facebook is under pressure to win back young users.

The report highlights internal emails, one from a director of the firm stating it 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." The report says campaign operatives "were also encouraged to use TikTok's prominence as a way to deflect from Meta's own privacy and antitrust concerns."

It further highlights emails asking for ideas on local political reporters who could serve as a backchannel for anti-TikTok messages, as well as urging partners to push stories to local media painting TikTok in a bad light, working in one instance to spread rumors of a 'Slap the Teacher TikTok challenge'.

The report says Targeted Victory " has contracted with dozens of public relations firms across the United States to help sway public opinion against TikTok".

Targeted Victory was founded as a Republican Digital consulting firm, and received $237 million in Republican campaign spending in 2020.

The report further details other aspects of the campaign including targeted op-eds that were published in various local news outlets. You can read the full report here.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9