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The White House Briefs TikTok Stars on Ukraine Crisis

National Security Council staffers and White House press secretary Jen Psaki spoke to 30 TikTok stars via Zoom

TikTok (photo by Kon Karampelas via Unsplash) and The White House (photo by Matt Wade)
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    National Security Council staffers and White House press secretary Jen Psaki gathered 30 TikTok stars via Zoom Thursday, March 10th for a briefing on the war between Russia and Ukraine.

    Since Russia invaded Ukraine late last month, TikTok became an unlikely source of real-time information for millions around the world. While the app has proven to be a useful tool for reporters, its algorithm has also harbored dangerous misinformation and Russian propaganda.

    Psaki led the briefing alongside Matt Miller, a special adviser for communications at the White House National Security Council. In a recording obtained by The Washington Post, Biden officials emphasized the influence these creators have in online discussions surrounding the crisis. “We recognize this is a critically important avenue in the way the American public is finding out about the latest,” said White House director of digital strategy Rob Flaherty. “So we wanted to make sure you had the latest information from an authoritative source.”

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    The briefing’s attendees were mostly Gen Z TikTokers — many with upwards of half a million followers — whose content leans towards politics, history, and culture. “People in my generation get all our information from TikTok,” Khalil Greene, who attended the briefing, told The Washington Post. “It’s the first place we’re searching up new topics and learning about things.”

    Others attendees included Jules Terpak, who makes TikTok essays about culture; Jules Suzdaltsev, who operates the TikTok account Good Morning, Bad News; and Ellie Zeiler, a TikTok star with over 10 million followers. Some, including Greene, posted recaps of their experience.

    Not all reviews were positive. “There wasn’t a lot of acknowledgement of what America should stop doing in terms of their connections to occupations, invasions, and general bad-faith actions across the world,” Greene said. Similarly, Suzdaltsev told The Washington Post that “the energy of the call felt like a press briefing for kindergartners.” Listen to a recording of the briefing below.

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    In more tech-related Russia news, Netflix announced earlier this month that they would pull their services from Russia. Both Live Nation and Spotify announced plans to indefinitely cease conducting business there, and Apple paused the sales of its products. Facebook was also banned in Russia after the social media platform refused to comply with the country’s demand to cease fact-checking state media.

    A growing list of musicians have canceled upcoming Russia tour dates in support of Ukraine as well, including Green DayBring Me the HorizonIggy PopNick CaveFranz FerdinandYungblud, and more. Pink Floyd and their former lead singer David Gilmour also just pulled their music from streaming services in Russia and Belarus.

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