Dozens of TikTok “influencers” were given a White House briefing on the Russia-Ukraine war, Thursday, the Washington Post reported. In a Zoom call, National Security Council staffers and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reportedly provided to “30 top TikTok stars” the Biden administration’s talking points on “the United States’ strategic goals,” and answered a number of questions.
According to WaPo internet technology reporter Taylor Lorenz, “millions” of people are turning to the Chinese-owned social media app for information about what is going on in Ukraine.
TikTok videos offered some of the first glimpses of the Russian invasion and since then the platform has been a primary outlet for spreading news to the masses abroad. Ukrainian citizens hiding in bomb shelters or fleeing their homes have shared their stories to the platform, while dangerous misinformation and Russian propaganda have also spread. And TikTok stars, many with millions of followers, have increasingly sought to make sense of the crisis for their audiences.
This is not the first time, the administration has used TikTok influencers for propaganda purposes.
The administration worked with dozens of top TikTok stars last year to encourage vaccination. He also hosted a briefing for influencers to educate them about his infrastructure plan. To emphasize the child-care components of his “Build Back Better” initiative, he sat for interviews with two parenting influencers on Facebook Live and YouTube.
Last August, the Biden White House recruited a TikTok personality known as “Benny Drama” to promote the experimental, genetic vaccines in a cringe-inducing video called “A day in my life as a White House intern <3.” The video featured Drama flitting around the White House flashing long white nails and sporting a multi-patterned suit, and saying on the phone, “One sec, Democracy is calling, see you daddy.”
I will continue screamin from the mountaintops that TikTok has so much pull!! Benny Drama (whose whole brand is about comedic overacting) was the most recent influencer recruited to promote the vaccine by @WhiteHouse. pic.twitter.com/uwUrq5CZb6
— Jordyn Brown (@thejordynbrown) August 9, 2021
The Biden Regime worked with a nonprofit advocacy group called Gen Z For Change to help identify which content creators on TikTok to include the briefing.
On its website, Gen-Z for Change say it leverages “social media to promote civil discourse and political action among our generation.”
Partnering with influencers, activists, and celebrities, we produce multimedia content on a variety of topics including COVID-19, climate change, systemic inequity, foreign policy, voting rights, and LGBTQIA
According to the Washington Post, the invitations to the event went out on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Kahlil Greene, a 21 year-old with more than 534,000 followers on TikTok, told WaPo he wasn’t surprised to receive an invitation to a White House briefing. “People in my generation get all our information from TikTok,” he said. “It’s the first place we’re searching up new topics and learning about things.”
During the call, which was led by Psaki, and National Security Counsel Communications Advisor Matt Miller, Biden officials stressed the important role these millennial influencers can have in communicating a regime-approved narrative to their followers.
“We recognize this is a critically important avenue in the way the American public is finding out about the latest,” said the White House director of digital strategy, Rob Flaherty, “so we wanted to make sure you had the latest information from an authoritative source.”
Jules Terpak, a Gen Z content creator who makes TikTok essays about digital culture, indicated that she trusts the Biden White House to always be honest and truthful about what is happening, telling the Post: “Those who have an audience can ideally set the tone for how others decide to assess and amplify what they see online.”
Teddy Goff, a founder of Precision Strategies, a Democrat consulting firm with close ties to Biden, told the Post that the White House’s strategy of embracing Generation Z media voices is essential. “There’s a massive cultural and generational shift happening in media, and you have to have blinders on not to see it,” he said. “The reach of a piece in a traditional news outlet is a fraction of what a big TikToker gets.”
Full Psaki quote from @TaylorLorenz audio: "If you look back at 2014, and frankly even 2016, when Russia invaded Ukraine and then in 2016, when they, you know, of course, hacked our election here, we did not do that, we did not declassify information."
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) March 11, 2022
Full audio here.