PR or a real political tool?

Joe Biden and Barack Obama are invited
White House influencers and
Republicans are mobilizing online…
Is politics coming to the fore?

Remember: On Tuesday, Oct. 25, two weeks before the midterm elections, President Joe Biden took a smiling selfie outside the White House. With him are not fifty-year-olds in suits and ties, but eight very influential tiktokers invited by the Democratic National Committee on an official visit to Washington. The program includes a tour of the Supreme Court and the Capitol, a discussion session with Barack Obama, a personal interview with the American president in the Oval Office, and discussions with high-ranking representatives of the Democratic Party. The stated goal was to encourage these young influencers to mobilize their audience to vote during this crucial period. Among these tiktokers, we find quite apolitical profiles: Vitus Spehar from the show Under The Desk News and his 2.7 million subscribers, or actress Nia Sioux, 21 years old and at least 8.3 million followers.

Enthusiastic Young Americans highlighted the lack of civic education that affects youth political engagement. Sioux even had to clarify after one of his videos that he was not talking about semester exams at the university, but about the midterm political elections… This was not the first time that famous tiktokers walked through the gates of the White House. . In March, for example, they were invited to a briefing on the war in Ukraine, which resulted in an appearance on the popular television show Saturday Night Live, in which Joe Biden and press secretary Jen Psaki asked unconscious teenagers for advice on Ukraine. .

TikTok, the new source of information for 18-29 year olds

The rise of TikTok has made it an important tool not only as a social network, but also as a source of information. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research think tank, 26% of 18-29-year-olds in the United States consume information on TikTok, this figure will be 18% in 2021 and 9% in 2020. other social networks. Today, TikTok has one billion users worldwide, 200 million of them in the United States alone. The ideal communication channel. However, neither the President of the United States nor any member of his administration has an active account. Joe Biden has made several comedic appearances in impactful videos, and Barack Obama recently urged Americans to vote for Vitus Spehar’s show.

The use of TikTok as a political tool is countered by another factor: the vast majority of federal government employees, especially in the White House, are prohibited from downloading TikTok on their professional devices for security reasons. Moreover, only the Democratic Party is on the platform. That means the Biden administration has a responsibility to train young ambassadors to deliver its message to an ever-expanding audience, especially an underserved age group. The assumed strategy. “The key to winning on TikTok in the political arena is not so much your content, but how you get your message across to creators,” said White House digital strategy director Rob Flaherty. That means you have to take them seriously.”

An underrated political tool

On the Democratic side, one of the most prominent influencers on TikTok is only 18 years old: Aidan Kohn-Murphy, who founded the association Gen-Z for Change. It appears progressive and posts messages on social media to encourage Generation Z (born between the late 1990s and 2010s) to take an interest in politics. For a change, Gen-Z is especially active on TikTok, the influencer network’s more than 500 million subscribers. It was Aidan Kohn-Murphy who coordinated the briefing on Ukraine at the White House and had fun with a sketch made of it. “It’s great to do something so remarkable that it’s parodied.”

Joe Biden with new pop star Olivia Rodrigo in July 2021. Alamy Stock Photo

But for him, as for many, this feature of humor shows how the entire country has not measured the importance of TikTok as a political weapon. The downside is that political parties do not control the way the message is delivered, and messages sent by tiktokers sometimes lead to slippage. For example, a young Texan member of Gen-Z for Change invited her followers to submit false clues to a site created to denounce potential violations of the law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. This led to the proliferation of pornographic images that forced the site to be shut down. Or Gen-Z for Change contributed to sending more than 80,000 fake applications to the coffee chain after learning that Starbucks was firing workers who tried to form a union.

Trump appointee Brendan Carr testified before Congress that he was “very concerned” about the potential data collection. A Republican congressman and senator recently introduced a bill to ban TikTok in the United States

Distrust of conservatives

On the other side of the political spectrum, Republicans have a more complicated relationship with TikTok. While in power, Donald Trump announced that the Chinese social network would be banned in the United States before backing down. The reason for this is that TikTok passed on the data of its American users to the Chinese government, which the social network denies, although it admits that its employees have access to certain information. Trump-appointed FBI Director Brendan Carr testified before Congress in mid-November that he was “very concerned” about the potential data collection. A Republican congressman and senator recently introduced a bill to ban TikTok in the United States. But with Congress divided between the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and the Democratic Senate, that appears to have been compromised. At the same time, Washington is directly negotiating with the social network to store personal data on its territory for national security purposes. Although no deal has been announced yet.

Conservative tiktokers nevertheless exist on the social network, and they are easily taxed as a yardstick for wokism and communism. Their philosophy is focused on fighting this trend of the left, especially the hashtag #socialismsucks and admiration for Donald Trump. Above all, conservative tiktokers believe that liberals are trying to erase all other thought by protesting this popular “cancellation culture” of silencing someone for words or actions deemed unacceptable. For them, young people today are full of political utopias delivered by the left. “The problem is not that young people are against conservative ideas, but simply that they are not exposed to them,” said Charlie Kirk, president of the conservative student organization Turning Point USA.

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Some conservative profiles manage to stand out. One of the most prominent among them is Christian Walker, who, in addition to his subscriber base, is also known for being the son of Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker. It will be held in the second round in December. The latter is in bad shape after it is revealed that he will finance the abortion of an ex-lover who says he is against abortion. His son criticized his father’s candidacy, but, above all, he produced provocative videos against the Black Lives Matter movement, among others, which led to his ban from TikTok when he had more than 400,000 subscribers. After that, he recreated his social media profile without stopping to celebrate Republican tardiness and continued his more politically correct speech.

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