The White House on Thursday held a special briefing for 30 TikTok influencers on Ukraine, in the Biden administration’s apparent continuing attempt to use the platform and its young users to get out its message.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that the White House gathered the TikTok users to “receive key information” about the war in Ukraine.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Security Council staffers briefed them about the U.S.’s “strategic goals in the region” and answered questions on distributing aid to Ukrainians, working with NATO, and how the U.S. would react if Russia used nuclear weapons, according to the report.
The administration worked with a Democrat nonprofit advocacy group, Gen Z For Change, to identify influencers and orchestrate a briefing. Gen Z for Change Deputy Director Victoria Hammett sent out the invitations and gathered potential questions. Hammett was also head of political research for Democrat Hype House and was a volunteer content creator for Tiktok for Biden, according to her LinkedIn account.
Her LinkedIn account said @tiktokforbiden had changed its username to @genzforchange.
Some influencers told the Post after the call that they felt more “empowered to debunk misinformation and communicate effectively about the crisis.” TikTok said Thursday it would be labeling state-controlled media on its platform.
One of the influencers on the call, Ukrainian-born journalist Jules Suzdaltsev, said the overall tone of the briefing was too soft and that officials dodged hard questions.
“The energy of the call felt like a press briefing for kindergartners,” he told the Post.
The Biden administration worked with “dozens” of top TikTok influencers last year to encourage vaccination and also hosted a briefing for them on his infrastructure plan.
Last year, the administration infamously invited TikTok influencer “Benny Drama” to the White House to convince younger Americans to get vaccinated.
The White House released video of Drama’s visit to the White House, which also featured Psaki, just days before the Biden administration was caught off guard by the collapse of the Afghanistan government, which prompted a disastrous evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and a chaotic withdrawal where 13 U.S. service members were killed.