A propaganda mill: Allegations surface over Facebook’s use of GOP firm for dirty tricks campaign

The new revelation that Facebook has hired one of the largest Republican consulting firms in the United States to lead a public attack campaign against rival platform TikTok has been seen as further evidence of the growing alliance of the social media giant with the right-wing political apparatus.

According to Washington Postwhich first reported Facebook’s decision, the campaign against TikTok orchestrated by Targeted Victory, a Virginia-based digital premier agency, “includes the placement of op-eds and letters to the editor in major news outlets. regional press, promoting dubious stories about alleged tendencies of TikTok which was actually born on Facebook and pushing political journalists and local politicians to help take down its biggest competitor.

“These bare-knuckle tactics, long commonplace in the world of politics, have become increasingly noticeable in a tech industry where companies are vying for cultural relevance and come at a time when Facebook is under pressure to win back young people. users,” said the To post added.

Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company Meta, defended the campaign, telling the newspaper that “we believe all platforms, including TikTok, should be given the scrutiny consistent with their success. croissant”.

Targeted Victory was started in 2009 by Zac Moffatt, who served as digital director for Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) 2012 presidential campaign. In recent years, according to Open Secrets, the company has received tens of millions of dollars in payments from Republican campaign committees and America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC.

The Post reported on Wednesday that as part of its campaign to portray TikTok as a dangerous platform, Targeted Victory “spread rumors of the ‘Slap a Teacher TikTok Challenge’ in local news, touting a local news report on the so-called defiance in Hawaii”.

“In reality, no such challenge existed on TikTok,” said the To post Noted. “The rumor started on Facebook, according to a series of Facebook posts first documented by Insider.”

In a statement to the Post, Targeted Victory said it has been a Facebook partner for years and is “proud of the work we’ve done.”

The news that Facebook was paying a GOP firm to do its business-related dirty work comes as the platform faces mounting criticism for using algorithm changes to boost right-wing political content and posts such as The daily threada media created by Ben Shapiro that broke Facebook’s rules.

“This story tends to indicate that Facebook is now part of the Republican political machine,” said Ryan Cooper, editor of The American perspectivewrote on Twitter in response to Posts reports. “Joel Kaplan is their vice president of public policy, [CEO Mark Zuckerberg] is friends with Ben Shapiro, who is licensed to violate Facebook [terms of service] with impunity, the algorithm is rigged to boost conservative content, every right slop is the most shared, etc.

“It’s a GOP propaganda mill,” Cooper added.

Citing the author’s research and New York Times Technology columnist Kevin Roose, Recode, reported in late 2020 that there is “a regular pattern” on Facebook “of right-wing public pages capturing significantly more interactions than their left-wing counterparts.”

A study published in October 2020 by the liberal-leaning watchdog Media matters to America also found that between January 1 and September 30 of that year, “right-wing pages generated more interactions than left-leaning and non-aligned pages” – undermining conservative claims that they are “censored” by the platform.