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April 1, 2024, 10:30 a.m.
Conservative Dark Money Targets TikTok With $1 Million+ In Attack Ads
Conservative Dark Money Targets TikTok With $1 Million+ In Attack Ads
['TikTok', 'American', 'parent', 'President', 'Leo']

This is the first report of a Leo-linked’s organization engaging in tech-related advocacy.

Conservative Dark Money Targets TikTok With $1 Million+ In Attack Ads

Featuring foreboding music and an urgent-sounding voiceover, the ad presented statistics about content glorifying eating disorders and self-harm on TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media giant that boasts 170 million American users to date. TikTok's primary competitor, Meta, paid a Republican-aligned political consultancy to malign it in 2022, and China hawks with ties to the U.S. defense industry are now referring donors to the same firm to raise money for lawmakers who would support a ban. Alleigh Marre, the executive director of the American Parents' Coalition, is a former Republican Party spokesperson who also leads the Free to Learn Coalition, another Leo-backed group that pushes schools to restrict discussions of racial and gender inequities, which it characterizes as critical race theory or CRT. Marre's pinned tweet on X shares a new television ad targeting TikTok with the caption, "TikTok poses one of the greatest threats to our children. It is leading to major physical and psychological harm." Reached for comment, Marre declined to speak for Leo or the Lexington Fund, but offered the following statement: "TikTok lacks adequate parental controls for minors and promotes content that glorifies self-harm and eating disorders. Studies have revealed this content is pushed to young audiences within minutes of using the app, all while collecting vast amounts of personal data from its users. TikTok is poison." Unlike the push against discussion of systemic inequities in schools, TikTok has been an unusually bipartisan issue for lawmakers, uniting them across party and ideology over long shared anxieties about TikTok's ownership by the Chinese tech giant, ByteDance. Former President Trump, despite leading his own quest to force ByteDance to sell - or face a TikTok ban - now says he opposes the effort. TikTok has lambasted the House bill as an unconstitutional restriction of its users' speech and vowed to fight it in court, should it become law.

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