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Facebook's plan to discredit TikTok in the United States

According to a recent investigation by the Washington Post in recent months Meta, the company that controls the social networks Facebook and Instagram, would have paid a US consultancy firm close to the Republican Party to discredit TikTok, a rival social network owned by the Chinese ByteDance.

The Washington Post wrote that it came into possession of a series of emails demonstrating how the consulting firm Targeted Victory tried various ways to damage TikTok's public image, for example by lobbying various US newspapers to write stories. who told of the alleged bad influence exerted by TikTok on young people. All these operations would have been carried out on the orders of Meta.

Targeted Victory is a consulting firm founded by Zac Moffatt, who had been the digital manager for Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2012. Some of its main income comes from the Republican Party, and among its largest contributors is a committee close to former US President Donald Trump.

At Facebook's request, Targeted Victory would contact dozens of media companies and press offices to promote the campaign against TikTok, and in some cases, persuade local politicians, even Democrats, and other influential people to publish editorials in newspapers to put a bad light. TikTok. “The ideal would be to get stories with headlines like 'From Dance to Danger: How TikTok Became the Most Harmful Social Media for Children”, “reads an email sent by Targeted Victory to a US newspaper.

The plan to discredit TikTok was contained in a Google document titled “Bad TikTok Clips,” viewed by the Washington Post, which contained links to videos that would give rise to harmful trends among American teenagers. The document claimed, for example, that the so-called “devious licks challenge” would be born from some TikTok videos, a challenge that invited young students to vandalize their schools and recover.

The news of the spread of this challenge had been picked up by several American media, and a Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal, had even asked TikTok to testify in the Senate to explain his position on the matter. In reality the challenge was born on Facebook and not on TikTok, as revealed by an investigation of an American podcast.

In October, Targeted Victory would try to spread the word of another challenge, the “Slap a Teacher challenge,” in which students had to slap a teacher and post the video on TikTok. In this case not only was the news born on Facebook and not on TikTok, but it was discovered that no such challenge had ever existed and there had never been any case reports related to it.

The Washington Post did not say when this campaign would begin, and only specified that one of the last emails it was able to read was back in February, when Facebook announced for the first time in its history that it had lost. users. Among other things, on that occasion the investors had judged the bad results of Facebook as a symptom of the social network's inability to attract new users, and in particular the younger ones who are moving to other platforms, such as TikTok.

The loss of young users to TikTok is not a new topic, and Facebook has been talking about it for some time. The issue had been revealed for the first time last year in internal documents released by the whistleblower and former employee Frances Haugen, the so-called “Facebook Papers”, where it was mentioned as one of the main problems that the social network would have to face in the future for try to keep up with the competition.

– Read also: “Everyone reads it on TikTok”