Facebook parent company Meta is paying one of the most prominent consulting firms in the United States to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok. 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.
Meta has paid a “right of entre” marketing firm, Targeted Victory, to lead a campaign that has included placing letters to the editor in local papers to promote anti-TikTok sentiment, especially when it comes to children using the app. The campaign reportedly includes placing letters in major US news outlets and promoting negative stories about TikTok. Some of the narratives Targeted Victory has pushed about TikTok are unfounded.
The campaign promotes dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that originated on Facebook and pushed to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor. These bare-knuckle tactics, long commonplace in 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.
Meta is the current punching bag; TikTok is the real threat, especially as a foreign-owned app that is number one in sharing data those young teens are using. One effort also is reported as they are getting parents to sign on to letters raising concerns about the future of their children that were submitted to US newspapers, some of which published them. The reports show the extent to which Meta and its partners will use opposition-research tactics on the Chinese-owned, multibillion-dollar rival that has become one of the most downloaded apps in the world, often outranking even Meta’s popular Facebook and Instagram apps. In an internal report last year, Facebook researchers said, teens were spending more time on TikTok than on Instagram and that Facebook’s popularity among young people had plummeted.
Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg had once told investors that TikTok was a significant obstacle, saying, “People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are proliferating.” The company has unveiled a TikTok clone, a short-video feature called Reels, and promotes it heavily in its Instagram app.
It is a preplanned attempt to undermine TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company Byte Dance, by promoting an effort to have it portrayed as a danger to American children. According to the spokesperson of TikTok, it was “deeply concerned” by a campaign paid for by Meta to promote negative coverage of the short-form social platform in local media coverage.
Meta also has defended its involvement in the anti-TikTok campaign. Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Meta, said in a separate statement that “We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.”