President Joe Biden has turned to a group of TikTok influencers to help him battle Russia’s propaganda machine about its invasion of the Ukraine and shift the blame for rising gas prices at home squarely on Vladimir Putin.
The White House held a zoom briefing for about 30 popular internet figures, who promptly took to their social media accounts to talk about what they learned.
They include Ellie Zeiler, an 18-year-old who has more than 10 million followers.
She posted a video on her profile entitled: ‘Why is gas so expensive?’
Ellie Zeiler, an 18-year-old TikToker who has more than 10 million followers produced a video explaining why gas is so expensive after being requested to do so by The White House
Gas prices continue to rise in California as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.A Shell station in San Francisco is charging $6.29 for regular gasoline while a Valero station at the airport lists $6.99 for Diesel
Zeiler did not shy away from the fact she had been in contact with the Biden Administration over the course of making the video.
‘Why is gas so expensive, and why is the United States inflation rate at a four-time decade high?’ the video starts.
‘I had the opportunity to ask the White House why gas down the street is $7 and here’s what they said.’
‘The first obvious reason is that we’re getting out of a two year pandemic. When use goes up, the price goes up….
‘But the call was predominantly about Ukraine and Russia, so how does that relate?’ she asked.
The young TikTokers asked about inflation. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki blamed it on a number of issues including supply chain issues, the pandemic and the cost of energy which had been rising even before the Russian invasion
President Joe Biden turned to TikTok stars to help him counter Russian online influence on its invasion and White House press secretary Jen Psaki briefed the social media stars
‘Russia is one of the top three producers of oil and it is actually their No. 1 revenue source. Now, with Putin starting this horrific fight between Ukraine and Russia, nobody wants to work with him and do international trade.’
Zeller, who posted her one minute video on Sunday, was one of 30 TikTok stars in the Zoom meeting held last Thursday with White House officials and National Security Council staffers, the Washington Post reported.
The White House briefing was led by Matt Miller, a special adviser for communications at the White House National Security Council, and Psaki, the Post reported.
During the meeting, Zeiler, in audio sourced by the Post, could be heard asking about inflation and what it meant for the country and young people. Her video came out on Sunday
White House director of digital strategy, Rob Flaherty, told the TikTokers that he saw their reach and possible influence as ‘a critically important avenue’ to the American public.
During the meeting, Zeiler, in audio sourced by the Post, could be heard asking about inflation and what it meant for the country and young people.
Psaki placed the blame on a number of issues including supply chain issues, the pandemic and the cost of energy which had been rising even before the Russian invasion.
But speaking about gas prices in particular, she lay the blame squarely with President Putin.
Kahlil Greene, who calls himself a ‘Gen Z historian,’ posted about what he learned on a briefing call the White House held with social media influencers
Aaron Parnas, the son of Lev Parnas, was also on the call and praised the White House for the work it was doing to counter Russian propaganda
‘It’s his actions, President Putin, that is prompting the rising gas prices,’ Psaki said. ‘That is what is happening.’
Zeiler later told the Post that she was honored to take on the role of explaining complex situations to young people
‘I’m here to relay the information in a more digestible manner to my followers,’ she told the Post. ‘I would consider myself a White House correspondent for Gen-Z.’
Other content on her TikTok page sees her on dancing in her house, sharing makeup tips or on vacation as well as pulling pranks on her family.
Gen Z For Change, a nonprofit advocacy group, helped identify the content creators invited to participate.
The information was targeted at the younger generation.
‘We joined the White House for a briefing on the U.S. strategic goals in Ukraine so we’re better able to debunk misinformation.
‘As a coalition that reaches half a billion people, we are grateful that the White House chooses to work with us to keep people informed,’ the group continued.
Gen Z For Change, a nonprofit advocacy group, helped identify the content creators invited to participate
Jules Terpak, an influencer who was on the briefing call, tweeted that ‘TikTok is the media app that many young people click first after unlocking their phones.
Also on the call was Aaron Parnas, who has 1.2 million followers and is the son of Rudy Giuliani’s indicted former associate Lev Parnas.
‘I just got off of a zoom call with the White House about the situation in Ukraine,’ Kahlil Greene, who calls himself a ‘Gen Z historian’ and has 540,000 followers, posted in a video to his social media accounts.
The administration’s move comes as it battles a wave of misinformation out of Moscow where Vladimir Putin is justifying the invasion by making false claims about the Ukraine.
All the ‘digital creators’ on the White House briefing game a similar summary: that the administration was emphasizing its work with allies, the assistance it was offering the Ukraine and how it was trying to prevent a bigger war.
Marcus J. DiPaola tweeted about his experience on the White House briefing.
‘The number one message the White House has is U.S. unity with partners & allies. The number two message is to prevent a more expansive war,’ he noted.
National Security Council staffers and White House press secretary Jen Psaki conducted the briefing, according to the Washington Post.
Aaron Parnas, who said he has family in the Ukraine and whose father Lev assisted Trump’s plan to pressure Ukraine to investigate Trump’s rivals, discussed the White House talking points on the call in a video he posted to his social media accounts.
‘The United States has provided a significant amount of militaristic as well as humanitarian aid to Ukraine,’ he said, citing White House officials.
‘Next we are seeing the United States sanctions on Russia work. Russia’s economy is in freefall, the ruble is at its lowest point in a very long time, and the country is on the brink of default. And finally, the United States is publishing a significant amount of previously classified information that was since declassified in order to debunk Russian misinformation and keep the public and Ukraine aware of what’s happening.
Both sides have used social media to spread their messages in the Russian-Ukraine conflict: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has posted defiant videos on Facebook to counter Russia rumors he left Kyiv (above)
VICE News uncovered a coordinated campaign to pay Russian TikTok influencers to post videos pushing pro-Kremlin narratives about the war in Ukraine where popular social media influencers shared Moscow’s propaganda even after TikTok banned new uploads from users located inside Russia.
Parnas noted on Twitter that ‘Russia is literally paying people to make content on TikTok and elsewhere. Beware of the propaganda out there, and know that Russia is desperate because they are losing this war.’
Both sides have used social media to spread their messages.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has posted defiant videos on Facebook to counter Russia rumors he left Kyiv. Journalists and others in country have posted photos and video of the damage being done by Russian forces.