Facebook feels less and pays to discredit TIK TOK.

The firm hired by the social network sought to place information on the dangers “for children” of the Chinese platform in local and regional American media.

In one of the emails, it can be read: “Ideally we would get [the media] to write stories with headlines like ‘From dances to danger: how TikTok has become the most harmful social network for children”. In another, the sender asks for "negative examples at the local level" of stories or trends related to the Chinese platform for short videos, which has enormous influence among teenagers. Both are internal emails sent to their workers by one of the most powerful Republican-affiliated lobbying consultancies in the United States, called Targeted Victory, which Meta (a Silicon Valley company formerly known as Facebook) paid to exert public pressure. and hatched a negative publicity campaign against TikTok in newspapers and televisions across the country, according to an investigation published Wednesday by The Washington Post, a newspaper that has had access to those messages.

Lobbyist Targeted Victory's mission was to get op-eds and letters to the editor published in major regional media outlets, as well as engage influential reporters and local politicians in disseminating stories casting doubt on the negative effects of using the Chinese company, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. Effects for which the social network founded by Mark Zuckerberg has been blamed in the past. The TikTok app, one of the most downloaded on the planet, has become the biggest threat, especially in the younger age groups, for the two jewels of Meta: Facebook and Instagram.

These practices, perfectly legal, are commonplace in US political campaigns, during which television and newspapers are filled with advertisements paid for by the parties in which little room is left to the imagination in order to denigrate the contrary. They were not so common until now in the fight between the big technology companies.

Targeted Victory, which has been representing Meta for several years and did not respond to emails from this newspaper this Wednesday, defines itself as an "agency focused primarily on digital created for the mobile age," which works at the "intersection of politics and business” with a “centre-right perspective.” “Our teams can be deployed on the ground anywhere in the country within 48 hours, acting from the local to the national scale. (...) We produce content in the format in which people want to consume it. Our designers specialize in short creative videos designed for mobile devices”, can be read in the declaration of intent on their website.

The consultancy, whose headquarters are in Arlington, a neighboring town of Washington, on the other side of the Potomac River, is the ninth firm dedicated to political pressure (lobbying) that raised the most money (more than 237 million dollars, about 212 million euros ) during the 2020 campaign, according to the records of OpenSecrets, an independent agency dedicated to monitoring relations between economic and political power in the federal capital. The list of its best clients includes the Republican committees of the United States Congress and Senate, as well as America First Policies, an entity founded in 2017 and associated with the campaigns of Donald Trump.