Facebook is losing users for the first time in 18 years. To get some of these people back, especially young people and teens, Meta is trying to defame TikTok — its main competitor — by spreading rumors about false challenges to shock parents and guardians, such as the “hit a teacher” challenge.
The information was published by The Washington Post last Wednesday (30). According to the newspaper, Meta has hired a company called Targeted Victory to run campaigns nationwide, showing how TikTok can be a dangerous social network. This organization even sent several opinionated articles and letters to editors of the country’s major newspapers, according to the investigations.
In internal emails obtained by The Washington Post, one of Targeted Victory’s directors told employees that the current mission is to prevent tiktok’s growing popularity among young people and teens. In the messages, the executive said the following:
“Send the message that while Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat, especially as a foreign-owned app that is number one in sharing data on young people and teens who use it.”
One of Targeted Victory’s strategies is to spread rumors about tiktok’s fake challenges, such as “hit a teacher.” Last year, several parents and guardians learned from television newspapers that students were allegedly assaulting teachers and recording acts of violence to publish in TikTok.
A few days after the news aired, it was discovered that the “hit a teacher” challenge never existed on the platform. Rumors, incidentally, began to surface in Facebook posts before appearing in newspapers in U.S. states such as California and Florida.
According to The Washington Post investigation, Targeted Victory was responsible for helping spread TikTok’s fake challenges through Facebook and local U.S. news. In addition to doing the work of publicising the false challenges, Targeted Victory even created the headlines for the news that criticized TikTok.
The company still keeps all the negative reports about TikTok, including stories that cite other challenges that never really existed, such as “rogue licks” — a challenge to vandalize schools.
Facebook and TikTok respond to investigation
In response to The Washington Post’s report, a Facebook representative defended Targeted Victory. “We believe that all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of investigation consistent with their growing success,” said the executive who has not been identified.
Meanwhile, a TikTok representative commented only that the company is “deeply concerned” about what happened. The social network is giant and has enough resources to deal with Facebook’s controversial tactics.