“Devious Licks” and other Tik Tok viral teencrime stories were faked by a Republican PR firm working for Facebook

Who had the above headline on their 2020s bullshit bingo card? Taylor Lorenz and Drew Harwell report that Facebook hired a bunch of GOP operatives to smear competitor Tik Tok as a malign foreign influence on children. Most of those viral local stories about teens smashing up bathrooms, slapping teachers and so on? They were either happening on Facebook itself or completely bogus.

The firm, Targeted Victory, pushed local operatives across the country to boost messages calling TikTok a threat to American children. “Dream would be to get stories with headlines like ‘From dances to danger,’ ” one campaign director said.

… One trend Targeted Victory sought to enhance through its work was the “devious licks” challenge, which showed students vandalizing school property. Through the “Bad TikTok Clips” document, the firm pushed stories about the “devious licks” challenge in local media across Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

Bullshit generated by Targeted Victory appeared in The Denver Post and The Des Moines Register—and on local TV affiliates galore.

The firm is one of the biggest recipients of Republican campaign spending, earning more than $237 million in 2020, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets. Its biggest payments came from national GOP congressional committees and America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC.

Facebook paid GOP firm to malign TikTok [WaPo]