The “Devious Licks” trend was reportedly part of Meta’s anti-TikTok campaign

TikTok trends that saw school toilets vandalized and teachers beaten last fall were reportedly part of a meta-campaign to anger public opinion about the app.

According to the Washington Post, the “devious licks” trend in which children damage school toilets and property, was actually part of a campaign orchestrated by Facebook parent company Meta and Republican consulting firm Targeted Victory. The campaign in part seeks to spread non-TikTok stories about dangerous TikTok trends as Meta desperately tries to lure younger users back. It debuted in 2020 with a TikTok double, Reels.

According to internal emails verified by the Washington Posta Targeted Victory staffer suggested, “One dream would be to get stories with headlines like ‘From dance to danger: how TikTok has become the most harmful social media space for kids.'” The campaign also tried to attract local reporters find which could be a “back channel” to spread anti-TikTok stories.

While there have been some videos of destruction from “devious licks,” some trends that couldn’t be found on TikTok, like last fall’s “Kool-Aid Man” challenge, which was covered by local news outlets, were deemed dangerous. Earlier this month, a New York Post Artikel called an alleged trend called “skeletal brunch” “dangerous,” but it was invented on Twitter and didn’t actually exist on TikTok.

According to the Washington Post, stories about the TikTok challenge “Slap a Teacher” were also shared in local markets. As with “devious licks,” the trend reportedly started on Facebook, not TikTok. The end goal of the campaign appears to be to get members of Congress to take action against TikTok, while potentially ignoring Meta’s exploding issues. The “hitting a teacher” trend prompted Connecticut Attorney General William Tong to request a formal meeting with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. “Devious licks” prompted Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to compose a letter to the CEO.

Zac Moffatt, CEO of Targeted Victory, pushed back against the Washington Post Report on Twitter and called it a “manufactured story”. Asked for comment, a TikTok representative told Daily Dot, “We are deeply concerned that fueling local media reports of alleged trends not found on the platform could cause harm in the real world.”

We reached out to Meta for comment.

*Initial publication: March 30, 2022 12:03 pm CDT

Audra Schroeder

Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, focusing on streaming, comedy and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch and the Village Voice. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Audra Schroeder The “Devious Licks” trend was reportedly part of Meta’s anti-TikTok campaign

Jaclyn Diaz

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