The Biden White House has organized an array of social influencers to broadcast the administration’s stances on a variety of social media platforms. President Biden has deployed this approach before, most notably on Tik Tok, where well-known influencers were paid by the White House to continue the administration’s campaign for vaccination. In essence, these influencers were paid to make videos, tweet and post on social media to encourage young people to get vaccinated. Taking into account the audience of social media platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram and even news platforms within Snapchat, younger viewers would see this propaganda at a higher rate than older adults, the latter who would be more drawn to information centers like television news sites, newspapers, etc.
This strategy was called “the shadow campaign that saved the 2020 election,” in a report by TIME magazine in 2021. Now, with issues ranging from the rising prices of gas to the war between Ukraine and Russia in Europe, the Biden administration has once again employed the cultural appeal of Tik Tok influencers.
Jen Psaki and Matt Miller, White House communication leaders, hosted a briefing for thirty Tik Tok influencers in an attempt to reach large, online audiences with the Biden Administration’s agenda. From news creators like Marcus DiPaola to beauty influencers like Ellie Zeiler, and extremely popular singers like Olivia Rodrigo and the Jonas Brothers, the hope of the White House is popularizing the President’s views. If Olivia Rodrigo is vaccinated and believes the best thing to do is to get vaccinated, it’s not totally off base to expect that her followers would want to follow suit.
The whole point of this strategy is wrapped up in the words of White House press secretary Jen Psaki: “the best antidote to disinformation is the truth.” Given an overview of the war overseas specifically,, these creators were briefed on topics ranging from relief efforts to the possibility of a Russian nuclear attack. With creators with a large number of followers on their social media apps such as Marcus DiPaola who boasts 3.5 million followers on Tik Tok, it is substantially easier to broadcast messages to a large scale of people. DiPaola, to his 3.5 million followers, made a video warning of the possibility of a Russian nuclear attack. Saying, “if Russia uses chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the United States will take escalatory steps. We don’t know what that means, but it won’t be good for Russia…” and so on.
Although the intention of using these Tik Tok creators is to take a bat to misinformation, many of these creators are under fire for doing just the opposite. Ellie Zeiler, a seventeen-year-old beauty influencer, is being criticized for speaking on issues that many believe she is not qualified to speak about. Many tweets emulate this criticism, one even saying “you’re telling me she’s not an expert on this topic? I’m shocked.”
Similarly, Amelie Zilber, another beauty influencer that studies part-time at Georgetown University, has come under fire for speaking on a Florida education bill. While supporters called this bill the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, opponents refer to it as “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The comments section under Zilber’s video has supporters and opponents fighting, however, most don’t even argue over the content of the video.
Many praise these creators for using their huge platforms to spread political awareness, though an equally poignant concern comes in the form of the credibility and qualifications of the person speaking and “educating” their viewers.