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TikTokeurs at the White House: a publicity stunt or a real political tool?


Joe Biden and Barack Obama invite influencers to the White House and the Republicans are mobilizing on the network… Does politics come out a winner?

Remember: Tuesday, October 25, two weeks before the midterm elections, President Joe Biden posed for a smiling selfie in front of the White House.

At his side, no fifty-something in a suit and tie, but eight very influential tiktokeurs, whom the Democratic National Committee had invited for an official trip to Washington.

On the program, a guided tour of the Supreme Court and the Capitol, a discussion session with Barack Obama, a private meeting with the American president in the Oval Office, and discussions with senior representatives of the Democratic Party.

The stated objective was to encourage these young influencers to mobilize their audience to vote during this important deadline.

Among these tiktokeurs, we find rather apolitical profiles: Vitus Spehar, of the

Enthusiastic young Americans highlighted the lack of civic education, which impacts young people's political engagement.

Sioux even had to specify, after one of her videos, that she was talking about the midterm political elections, and not about her semester exams at the university… It was not the first time that prominent tiktokers had passed through the door of the White House.

In March, for example, they had been invited to a briefing on the war in Ukraine, which resulted in a skit on the famous television show Saturday Night Live, in which Joe Biden and press officer Jen Psaki asked for advice on Ukraine to mindless teenagers.

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

The rise of TikTok has made it an essential tool, not only as a social network but also as a source of information.

According to a recent survey by the think tank Pew Research, 26% of 18-29 year olds in the United States now consume information on TikTok, compared to 18% in 2021 and 9% in 2020. A figure that is falling in the majority of other social networks .

Today, TikTok has one billion users worldwide, 200 million of which are in the United States alone.

An ideal communication channel.

Yet neither the US president nor any member of his administration has an active account.

Joe Biden has made a few comedic appearances in influencer videos and Barack Obama recently urged Americans to vote on Vitus Spehar's show.

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The use of TikTok as a political tool comes up against another factor: the vast majority of federal government employees, particularly in the White House, are prohibited from downloading TikTok on their professional devices for security reasons.

Moreover, only the Democratic Party is present on the platform.

This means that the Biden administration is obliged to educate young ambassadors to get its messages across to an increasingly large audience, and especially an age group to which it has little access.

An assumed strategy.

"The key to winning TikTok in the political arena isn't so much your own content as how you get your message across to creators," said Rob Flaherty, director of digital strategy for the White House.

An underrated political tool

On the Democratic side, one of the most prominent influencers on TikTok is just 18 years old: Aidan Kohn-Murphy, who created the Gen-Z for Change association.

This one appears as progressive and publishes messages on social networks to encourage generation Z (born between the end of the 1990s and 2010) to take an interest in politics.

Gen-Z for Change is particularly active on TikTok, where its network of influencers has more than 500 million subscribers.

It was Aidan Kohn-Murphy who coordinated the briefing on Ukraine at the White House and had fun with the sketch that was made of it.

"It's very cool to do something so notable that it's been parodied."

Full screen

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

But, for him as for so many others, this trait of humor also shows how the whole country has not measured the importance of TikTok as a political weapon.

The downside is also that the political parties have no control over the way the message is delivered, and the messages sent by the tiktokers have sometimes led to slippages.

Like when a young Texan influencer, member of Gen-Z for Change, invited her audience to send false clues to a site created to denounce potential violations of the law prohibiting abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

This resulted in a deluge of pornographic images, which forced the site to shut down.

Or when Gen-Z for Change, after learning that Starbucks had fired employees who were trying to form a union,

Trump appointee Brendan Carr testified before Congress that he was "very concerned" about potential data collection.

A Republican congressman and senator recently introduced a bill to ban TikTok in the US

Distrust of conservatives

On the other side of the political spectrum, Republicans have an even more complex relationship with TikTok.

When he was in power, Donald Trump announced the banning of the Chinese social network in the United States, before backtracking.

The reason given was that TikTok passes on the data of its American users to the Chinese government, which the social network denies, even though it acknowledges that its employees have access to certain information.

In mid-November, Trump-appointed FBI Director Brendan Carr testified before Congress that he was "very concerned" about potential data collection.

A Republican congressman and senator recently introduced a bill to ban TikTok in the United States.

But, with the projection of

a Congress divided between a House with a Republican majority and a Democratic Senate seems compromised.

At the same time, Washington is negotiating directly with the social network to keep personal information on its territory, for national security purposes.

Although no agreement has yet been announced.

Conservative tiktokers nevertheless exist on the social network, which they readily tax as a benchmark for wokism and communism.

Their philosophy focuses on the fight against this current of the left, with in particular the hashtag #socialismsucks, and an admiration for Donald Trump.

Above all, conservative tiktokers believe that liberals are trying to erase all other currents of thought, protesting against this famous “cancel culture”, which would silence someone for words or actions deemed inadmissible.

For them, young people today are inundated with political utopias conveyed by the left.

“The problem is not that young people are opposed to conservative ideas, it is simply that they are not exposed to them”, judge Charlie Kirk, president of the

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Some conservative profiles manage to stand out.

Among them, one of the most prominent is Christian Walker, known for his subscriber base as much as for being the son of Republican Senate candidate in Georgia, Herschel Walker, a key seat who will be played in a second round in December.

The latter is in bad shape after revelations that he would have financed the abortion of a former mistress, he who said he was against abortion.

His son criticized his father's candidacy, but, above all, he multiplied provocative videos against the Black Lives Matter movement, among others, which led to him being banned from TikTok when he had more than 400,000 subscribers.

He has since recreated a profile and resumed a more politically correct discourse,

Source: lefigaro

All business articles on 2022-12-06

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