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How a former mayor in Colorado is connected to a fake grassroots campaign against TikTok

The Washington Post reports Facebook's parent company hired a Republican political firm to organize a campaign against TikTok.

DENVER — The Washington Post reported this week that Facebook's parent company, Meta, hired a Republican political firm to organize a campaign against another social media platform, TikTok.

According to the Post, the sham grassroots campaign included "placing op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor."

The report said the firm Targeted Victory was behind the national campaign to "undermine" TikTok with the goal of attracting more young users to Facebook. 

The Post looked at internal emails for its reporting, one of which celebrated the placement of a letter to the editor of the Denver Post on March 12:

"On March 12, a letter to the editor that Targeted Victory officials helped orchestrate ran in the Denver Post. The letter, from a 'concerned' 'new parent,' claimed that TikTok was harmful to children’s mental health, raised concerns over its data privacy practices and said that 'many people even suspect China is deliberately collecting behavioral data on our kids.' The letter also issued support for Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s choice to join a coalition of state attorneys general investigating TikTok’s impact on American youths, putting political pressure on the company."

That letter came former Dillon Mayor Kevin Burns. When contacted by 9NEWS, Burns said he stands by the letter and it was not part of any paid arrangement.

"I stand by my letter, I know Meta was involved and that didn’t change a thing," he said via email. "I’m currently a stay at home dad in Aurora. As a committed Democrat, I support Attorney General Weiser and his announced efforts to investigate TikTok. I believe major tech companies deserve scrutiny, especially when children are using their services."

Burns now works for a public relations and government affairs firm called Summit Information Services. He said the letter was not affiliated with his employer, but he was contacted by a former colleague to write it.

A spokesperson for Weiser's re-election campaign also said Burns has no role with them.

Summit Information Services previously did media relations for Facebook. Carol Saade, an employee of the company who also serves on the Breckenridge town council, said she has not worked for Facebook more than a year. She did not respond to a question about whether she was involved in the campaign against TikTok.

Summit Information Services President David Cunningham has not responded to multiple requests for comment over the last five days.

>Read the Washington Post's full report here.

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