Eleven years ago, Facebook was caught red-handed after it hired a prominent public relations firm to try to place stories critical of Google’s privacy practices in leading news outlets.
In 2018, it hired PR firm Definers to conduct counter-research on the company’s critics, including billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Elliott Schrez, the company’s longtime communications chief, took the blame for approving the hiring of definers and similar companies and left Facebook.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was using a similar tactic to follow another rival tick. Meta, the Post reports, has hired a Republican consulting firm called Victory, a “nationwide campaign” against TickTock.
Targeted Victory, according to the post, has partnered with dozens of public relations firms across the United States to plant local news “to drive public opinion against TikTok” and to help set up op-ed targeted TikTok across the country.
Meta has confirmed that it has recruited targeted victories.
Spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement: “We believe that all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.”
Jack Moffat, CEO of Target Victory, said the company “manages a bipartisan team on behalf of our clients.”
“It’s public knowledge that we’ve worked with META for several years and we’re proud of what we’ve done,” he said in a statement.
The post received internal emails from Target Victory outlining a campaign to weaken Tiktok, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The firm has used a mix of “genuine concerns and unfounded concerns” about TikTok in an attempt to provoke public and political sentiment against it.
According to the report, Targeted Victory was also working to get “proactive coverage” of Facebook in local media, including “letters and comments highlighting the role of Facebook in supporting black-owned businesses.”
“We are deeply concerned that stockpiling local media reports of complaint trends not found on the platform could cause real-world damage,” TikTok said in an email statement.