NON STOP UPDATES, MISINFORMATION & TIMES OF CHANGE
“Those who have an audience can ideally set the tone for how others decide to assess and amplify what they see online…” Jules Terpak, Gen Z content creator
In the Ukraine context we’ve seen invading troops, grief, life from a bomb shelter, and even dangerous propoganda spread through the app. It’s a source of visual explainers and ‘always on’ updates. For example, US TikToker Aaron Parnas has been providing news updates via his channel. He’s hosted TikTok live streams discussing the events to over 800k people. Since the initial invasion he’s posted daily videos breaking down the news throughout the day.
However, it’s no surprise that TikTok’s growing political content is raising concerns. Among Russian youth, TikTok echo chambers are being highlighted as a risk. This is a special risk on TikTok due to its unique algorithm:
“Do you ever wonder why the videos users see throughout their feeds are always geared towards their likings, even when they do not follow any particular creators? Or why one’s “For You” page is filled with content that aligns exactly with one’s political affiliations, even if they do not regularly follow politics? The answer is the Tiktok algorithm, which works in accordance with several metrics to gauge users’ opinions and effectively transform their feeds into political echo chambers.” Harvard Politics
An investigation found that TikTok influencers were being paid to spread pro-Russian narratives at the beginning of the invasion. Organised via a Telegram channel, campaigns have been created by telling creators which audio, emojis and text to use in videos calling on Russians to ‘unite at this time of conflict’. This highlights how quickly misinformation can spread on (seemingly democratized) channels like this and how important it is for people to be cautious around bite-sized and highly politicized digital content.