Daily Column – 31st March 2022

Zuck has been binge-watching too much House of Cards. According to a story in the Washington Post, Meta recruited a top Republican consulting firm to assist distribute bad messaging about competitor TikTok in a campaign reminiscent of Frank Underwood’s political scams.

Targeted Victory, a consulting firm, produced anti-TikTok opinion pieces in local newspapers, deliberately campaigned for bad TikTok media coverage, and worked behind the scenes to convince lawmakers to increase their regulation of the app.

Here are a few samples of the campaign in action. (Warning: These are juicy and may require a napkin.)

Targeted Victory engaged local operators to push tales concerning various social media phenomena that would frighten parents, such as the “Slap a Teacher TikTok challenge.” The issues mentioned in the reports, however, began on Facebook, not TikTok.

Two anti-TikTok letters to the editor were published on the same day, March 12, in the Denver Post and the Des Moines Register. Targeted Victory was behind both pieces, albeit it was never revealed that a consulting business working on behalf of Meta was involved.

Meta’s reaction

“We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success,” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said. TikTok, which is owned by Chinese internet firm ByteDance, has been heavily criticised for its ties to the Chinese government and impact on young people’s mental health. A number of state attorneys general initiated an investigation into the app’s effects on adolescent users’ mental health earlier this month.

Meta, on the other hand, is yearning for someone else to take up the role of the social media troll. While TikTok’s long-term success is dependent on its massive metaverse play, those goals have been obscured by a short-term thrashing.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, Facebook lost daily users for the first time in its history. “People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are expanding extremely quickly,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the earnings call.

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