Facebook teams up with Republican consulting firm to push fake news about competitors

11 years ago, Facebook was caught red-handed after it hired a prominent public relations firm to try to place fake news on websites harshly criticizing Google’s privacy practices.

In 2018, it hired the public relations firm Definers to do research on critics of the company, including billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Elliot Schrage, the company’s longtime head of communications, took the blame for authorizing the hiring of Definers and similar companies and left Facebook. But that didn’t stop Facebook’s corporate culture of promoting fake news to influence the opinions of internet users.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is using similar tactics to go after another rival, TikTok. Meta, the newspaper reported, hired a Republican consulting firm called Targeted Victory to “orchestrate a nationwide campaign” against TikTok.

According to the Post, Targeted Victory hired dozens of public relations firms from across the United States to help it “tilt public opinion against TikTok,” which would be accomplished by infiltrating local news stories and helping place op-eds against TikTok across the country, according to the newspaper.

Meta confirmed that they hired Targeted Victory.

“We believe that all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny commensurate with their growing success,” Andy Stone, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

Zac Moffatt, CEO of Targeted Victory, said the company “manages bipartisan teams on behalf of our clients.”

“It is public knowledge that we have worked with Meta for several years and we are proud of the work we have done,” he said in a statement.

The Post obtained internal emails from Targeted Victory outlining a campaign to undermine TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The company used a mix of “genuine concerns and unfounded anxieties” about TikTok to try to turn the public and politicians against the platform.

Republican President Donald Trump became one of TikTok’s most vocal critics and attempted to ban the app’s use in the United States claiming that TikTok was a risk to national security based on information distributed to several conservative publications without any evidence.

According to the report, Targeted Victory was also working to get “proactive coverage” of Facebook in local media outlets, including “sending letters and op-eds praising Facebook’s role, for example, in supporting African-American owned businesses.

“We are extremely concerned that encouraging local media reporting on alleged trends that have not been found on the platform could cause real-world harm,” TikTok said in an emailed statement.

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