Facebook parent company Meta pays a major Republican strategy firm to trash Chinese-based social network TikTok amid a growing arms race between the two web giants, The Washington Post reports.
Emails obtained by the outlet show that the GOP firm Targeted Victory was paid by Meta to run a nationwide campaign to turn the public against TikTok.
The campaign includes op-eds and letters to the editor in major news outlets stoking concerns about alleged TikTok trends that “actually originated on Facebook,” according to the Post.
The company also lobbied lawmakers, arguing that TikTok poses a danger to American children even as Facebook and Instagram came under fire for similar findings.
Targeted Victory needs 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 of the firm’s directors said in a February email.
Firm also cited anti-trust concerns:
The firm also urged employees involved in the campaign to cite TikTok’s growing prominence to deflect from Meta’s own privacy and antitrust issues.
“Bonus point if we can fit this into a broader message that the current bills/proposals aren’t where [state attorneys general] or members of Congress should be focused,” one of the firm’s staffers wrote.
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone defended the campaign, telling the Post, “We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.”
A TikTok spokesperson said the company is “deeply concerned” about “the stoking of local media reports on alleged trends that have not been found on the platform.”
Targeted Victory was launched by Zac Moffatt, who was a digital director on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
The company’s website boasts that it brings “a right-of-center perspective to solve marketing challenges” and can deploy field teams “anywhere in the country within 48 hours.”
The firm earned more than $237 million in Republican campaign funds in 2020.
Its biggest payments came from Republican committees and the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.