Meta Reportedly Paid Consulting Firm to Target TikTok

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Meta Reportedly Paid Consulting Firm to Target TikTok
Photo by Dima Solomin on Unsplash

Meta has reportedly enlisted a major Republican consulting firm to ramp up public pressure on rival social media giant TikTok.

According to a new report by the Washington Post on Wednesday, the Facebook parent company has paid the consulting firm, Targeted Victory, to launch a national campaign that includes placing op-eds in regional news outlets and pushing for unfavorable news coverage of TikTok. Much of the content promoted by Targeted Victory has looked to highlight criticisms about how the Culver City-based video-sharing app allegedly endangers children.

The campaign is intended to redirect pressure on Meta’s own business practices onto TikTok, the Post reported—with Targeted Victory attempted to “get the message out that while Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat especially as a foreign owned app that is #1 in sharing data that young teens are using,” according to a February email written by a director at the consulting firm.

Meta’s use of Targeted Victory was meant to insulate the Mark Zuckerberg-led company as it looked to undercut one of its primary rivals, per the report. The consulting firm sought out local reporters to promote coverage positioning TikTok as a space that directly harms America’s youth, while a variety of op-eds in local newspapers expressed parental concern regarding TikTok’s data collection practices and foreign ownership.

One internal Targeted Victory document, titled “Bad TikTok Clips,” featured stories that looked to spotlight unsafe trends that emerged from TikTok—such as the rumored “Slap a Teacher TikTok challenge” and the “devious licks” challenge showing students vandalizing school property. The latter actually originated on Facebook, according to an investigation by podcast network Gimlet

As one of the largest recipients of Republican campaign spending, Targeted Victory has previously advised the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action and also advised Meta officials during congressional hearings regarding the 2016 presidential election.

In response to the Post article, a Meta spokesperson defended the campaign by stating: “We believe all platforms, including TikTok, should face a level of scrutiny consistent with their growing success.” A TikTok spokesperson, meanwhile, told the publication that it is “deeply concerned” about “the stoking of local media reports on alleged trends that have not been found on the platform.”

Aside from mounting public and political pressure, Facebook has grappled with a waning user base, while TikTok has parlayed its popularity among younger users to become the world’s most visited website. In an attempt to imitate TikTok’s success, Meta launched a short-video feature called Reels; TikTok, on the other hand, is actively seeking out an older demographic by recently extending its maximum video length to 10 minutes.

Besides the Meta campaign, TikTok has faced mounting political issues and investigations. Earlier this month, a bipartisan bill in California proposed to allow parents to sue social media companies—including both TikTok and Meta—for failing to curb their apps’ addictive properties. The proposed legislation follows eight state attorneys general, including California Attorney General Rob Bonta, launching an investigation into whether TikTok’s platform endangers the mental and physical health of teenagers and children.

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LA Venture: Emilio Diez Barroso On Why Everyone Isn’t Cut Out To Be A Founder

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
LA Venture: Emilio Diez Barroso On Why Everyone Isn’t Cut Out To Be A Founder
Photo: provided by LAV

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Bold Capital Partner Emilio Diez Barroso talks about his entrepreneurial journey, what led him to become an investor and shares the qualities he looks for when investing in companies.

Bold Capital is a Series A fund that primarily focuses its investments in deep tech and biotech companies. But, like other funds, they make excuses to invest in other companies every now and then.

“We're always interested in things that have the potential to truly transform how things are done and uplift humanity,” he said.

In his experience with investing in early stage startups, Diez Barroso said “humility and vulnerability are assets and qualities in the journey, and you don’t feel like you have to have it all together with your investors.”

Which is why he looks for people who have “this capacity to take full responsibility for how they show up and they have a vision and they have the willingness to go and execute it.”

In addition to his work at Bold Capital, Diez Barroso also runs two family offices which provide him with a surplus of knowledge in the investment space.

“I wear two very different hats,” he said, “and I invest very differently when I'm investing for myself, when I'm investing for my family, and when I'm investing for LP’s.”

But before becoming an investor, Diez Barroso got his entrepreneurial start when he arrived in Los Angeles. He admits that he failed plenty of times because unlike in Mexico, where Diez Barroso grew up, he didn’t have the same access to the contacts or resources of his family business.

“I would say yes to every opportunity that came my way,” he said, “I had started or partnered with someone and co-founded and most of them I had no idea what I was doing, so most of them really failed and a few got lucky enough to succeed.”

After learning how these startups worked and investing his own capital into several companies, he soon realized he was a much better investor than an operator.

“I think we're not all cut out for the journey,” he said, “and I don't think we should all be cut out for that journey. I think that it takes a very different character to start something from scratch.”

Throughout his own journey, Diez Barroso acknowledged that he struggled with his own identity and need to feel like the smartest person in the room. Once he better understood his own motivations, Diez Barroso was able to see that he was chasing the next reward, the next carrot.

“It's fun to close the deal and it's fun to grow the business,” Diez Barroso said. “But what I hadn't been in contact with is how much of my fuel was derived from trying to outrun the idea of not feeling good enough.”

Of course, he’s not alone. “I see a lot of entrepreneurs, activists all across fields and I can tell the difference when they're running from this fuel that is sort of very quick burning because there is an anxiety that oftentimes makes us narrow minded,” Diez Barroso said. “We are so attached to what we think should happen that we leave very little space for the possibilities.”

dot.LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.

Click the link above to hear the full episode, and subscribe to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

This podcast is produced by L.A. Venture. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

Xos Receives Multi-Million Dollar Order for Armored EVs

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

Xos Receives Multi-Million Dollar Order for Armored EVs
The United States transportation sector is rapidly adopting electric vehicle technologies at every level. From aircrafts, to tractor trailers, to sedans and bicycles, no means of locomotion is off limits…even armored trucks.
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