TikTok Newsletter 75
🪆Russian Pro-War Propaganda 🇺🇸 The White House + TikTok Stars
This is Understanding TikTok – your weekly TikTok update. My name is Marcus.
TikTok is still in the midst of an ongoing information warfare. Building up on previous observations in the last editions of the newsletter here is what i gathered in the last seven days.
🪆Russian Pro-War Propaganda
🇺🇸 The White House + TikTok Stars
✔️ Ukraine Misinformation
Dzvinka Hlibovytska is just exhausted. Valerie Shashenok has fled to Poland. User @markchrs documents life in a German refugee camp. Matthew Cassel (TikTok) who has left Ukraine on March 8. Trey Yingst (TikTok) is still in Kiev. His colleagues Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova got killed, his colleague Benjamin Hall got seriously injured (NYT).
“Certain posts do well on platforms because they fit into easily recognizable narrative patterns. This includes clear divides between good and bad, strong appeals to emotions such as anger and identifiable heroes, all of which make content attention-grabbing”, explains Rob Danisch, a communications professor at the University of Waterloo, cited in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
Kaitlyn Tiffany reflects on the the myth of the ‘First TikTok War’ for The Atlantic. “People have good reason to look for some new, crucial difference between the images of one war and those of all other wars that came before. If something is new, then maybe we’ve escaped the same old story in which lots of people die for no reason. If something is new, then maybe it can be different. But to look for that difference in the offerings of a technology company is obviously sad and misguided.”
TikTok struggles to find footing in wartime, reports WSJ. Journalist Liza Lin writes “At Tiktok,early days = internal chaos” in a worthwhile thread here.
Obviously TikTok has started deleting more war-related videos. TikTok user Jana Bespala talks about her content being deleted, her account being temporarily banned and TikTok warning her not to show “violent content”.
TikTok may have acted fast after it faced significant pressure to shift its policies, says Tom Siegel, the cofounder of internet safety company Trust Lab, and former VP of trust and safety at Google told Insider, "but the end result "is unlikely to be substantive."
TikTok user Natasha from Russia has published videos on March 11 talking about how to circumvent the TikTok ban in Russia using VPN and other techniques.
🪆Russian Pro-War Propaganda
I have written about the Kremlin’s domestic info war in #74 and #73. Here are some new findings.
Vice has published an article Russian TikTok Influencers Are Being Paid to Spread Kremlin Propaganda on March 11, diving a bit deeper into the coordinated campaigns i presented last week quoting from a Telegram channel.
Apart from that the article links to a Russian bloggin site (TJournal) that observes the so called “Brother for Brother” campaign, a sound-based campaign with over 1000 videos. And there is a link to the Berlin based agency Redfish who just started
to spread propaganda content on the platform. Another striking aspect to me concerning Russian disinfo campaigns is the level of cringe.
Abbie Richards has further investigated the “Russian Lives Matter” hashtag mentioned in #74 for Media Matters. Over 180 Russian influencers on TikTok are involved in a seemingly concerted propaganda campaign using the caption “Russian Lives Matter” and participating in a combination of three trends that promote online support for Russia's war in Ukraine. Brilliant decoding of The Z Dance and the “Real Woman” Meme here.
Tracking Exposed is a European non-profit organization defending digital rights through algorithmic investigations.The NGO has released “a special 24 page report into TikTok’s activities in Russia.” (PDF) on March 15.
Keyfindings include: On March 7, TikTok made all the content posted by non-Russian channels unavailable to Russian users. This unannounced restriction removes an estimated 95% of the content previously available to Russian TikTok users. And:
A network of coordinated accounts is using a loophole to post new content promoting Russian pro-war propaganda in Russia, despite the current ban on new content uploads. See for example @d00zenn.
🇺🇸 The White House + TikTok stars
On Thursday afternoon (March 10), 30 top TikTok stars gathered on a Zoom call to receive key information about the war unfolding in Ukraine. National Security Council staffers and White House press secretary Jen Psaki briefed the influencers about the United States’ strategic goals in the region, reports Taylor Lorenz for the Washington Post. Quote “There’s a massive cultural and generational shift happening in media, and you have to have blinders on not to see it.”
The influencers included self proclaimed White House correspondent for Gen-Z Ellie Zeiler, people from Gen-Z for Change – a nonprofit organization leveraging social media to promote civil discourse and political action among our generation and others like Marcus DiPaola and Aaron Parnas, the 22-yr-old son of Lev Parnas.
Please be aware of this Daily Mail (a britisch tabloid) headline: Joe Biden deploys teenage TikTok stars to blame soaring gas prices and inflation on Russia as US's worst cost-of-living crisis in 40 years tanks president's ratings ahead of midterms.
✔️ Ukraine Misinformation
Gen Z isn't immune to misinformation, writes Kalhan Rosenblatt for NBC News. Indeed. There is a great case study on TikTok, the war on Ukraine, and 10 features that make the app vulnerable to misinformation by Jennifer Nilsen, Kaylee Fagan, Emily Dreyfuss, and Joan Donovan on the Media Manipulation Casebook – a research platform that advances knowledge of misinformation and disinformation and their threats to democracy, public health, and security.
You will find a lot of points you might have seen in the newsletter, including 1. On Tiktok, anyone can publish and republish any video, and stolen or reposted clips are displayed alongside original content. 3. Factual information about TikTok videos – especially the dates and times of publication – are not clearly displayed for viewers on TikTok mobile app. 4. TikTok’s suite of built-in video editing tools allows users to manipulate video and audio in a misleading way. 7. TikTok pledges to label and remove misinformation, as well as take potential misinformation out of its recommendation algorithm, but as with other social media platforms, the application of this policy is inconsistent.
📽️ The TikTokification of the Cannes Film Festival (Vulture, Variety)
🎶 430 Songs Surpassed 1Bn Video Views on TikTok in 2021 (Music Business)
🤔 Philosophy on TikTok (Slate)
🎙️ TikTok's all-in-one platform for music creators
🎓 How to cite a TikTok in APA format
♻️ Instagram Creators and Meta are on TikTok now
🇨🇳 TikTok’s Project Texas (Buzzfeed)
🕳️ This is the end.