Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has paid one of the most prominent Republican consulting firms to run a nationwide campaign to foment mistrust of one of the company’s biggest competitors, TikTok, according to a new report from Facebook. The Washington Post on Wednesday.
The company, Targeted Victory, reportedly published op-eds and letters to the editor in major local and regional newspapers across the country. A director of Targeted Victory told staff the company needed to “get the message that while Meta is today’s punching bag, TikTok is the real threat, especially as a foreign-owned app that’s #1 in data sharing used by young teens.” “, according to emails obtained by The mail†
The news of Facebook’s decision to hire the company comes just weeks after the company stated it was losing users for the first time in its 18-year history. Meta’s recent earnings report states that Facebook’s active user base fell by nearly 500,000 at the end of last year.
Several of Targeted Victory’s op-eds contain links to negative coverage of TikTok and have often been ignored by influential community figures and politicians, including Democrats. The mail reported that none of the columns disclosed their affiliation with the Facebook-funded company.
In recent years, Facebook has come under fire from Congress for allegedly holding an illegal monopoly in the social media industry. During a 2020 hearing of tech CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, lawmakers cited internal company documents suggesting Zuckerberg would go into “destructive mode” if Instagram, a then-emerging competitor, refused to be sold to the social media giant.
“When the dominant platform threatens its potential rivals, it shouldn’t be normal business practice,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) at the time.
Targeted Victory is one of the largest purveyors of Republican campaigns. In 2020, the company made more than $230 million, and its biggest clients were from groups such as the pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action. Republicans are some of TikTok’s harshest critics. Lawmakers such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) have pushed for the app to be investigated for censorship, and former President Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning it completely.
In the end, the order went nowhere, and President Joe Biden withdrew it last year.