The White House briefed an assortment of TikTok stars Friday on the war in Ukraine.
White House officials, including National Security Council staffers and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, met with the group of about 30 top TikTok influencers over a Zoom call to discuss the situation, The Washington Post reported.
The officials offered information on the goals of the U.S. in the region and answered questions from the group on how to get aid to Ukrainians, working with NATO, and what the U.S. response to a Russian nuclear attack would look like.
TikTok, a social media platform popular with younger users that revolves around short videos, has been at the forefront of sources for those seeking on the ground information about what is going on in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country late last month.
Some users in Ukraine have posted videos of what their day looks like in the bomb shelters in which they are temporarily living, while others have posted videos of their bombed cities and shared their stories of fleeing their homes.
The White House sent out invitations to TikTok creators for the Zoom event on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“People in my generation get all our information from TikTok,” said Kahlil Greene, 21, a TikTok influencer with more than half a million followers, saying he was not surprised that the White House reached out. “It’s the first place we’re searching up new topics and learning about things.”
Other TikTok stars who were invited were Jules Terpak, who has more than 270,000 followers, and Ellie Zeiler, who has more than 10.5 million followers.
“We recognize this is a critically important avenue in the way the American public is finding out about the latest, so we wanted to make sure you had the latest information from an authoritative source,” White House director of digital strategy, Rob Flaherty, said about the event.
“I’m here to relay the information in a more digestible manner to my followers,” Zeiler told the Post. “I would consider myself a White House correspondent for Gen Z.”
The event was criticized by Republicans, who accused the Biden administration of being unserious and wasting its time talking to social media influencers instead of handling the crisis abroad.
“What a joke. This White House—including National Security Council staff—is spending time spreading debunked disinformation about the 2016 election to TikTok stars. Tells you everything you need to know about how unserious they are,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the House Minority Whip, wrote in a tweet Friday.
“Joe Biden can hardly be bothered to take questions from the American people, but the White House is briefing TikTok influencers on Ukraine. We have reached peak idiocracy,” tweeted Wesley Hunt, the Republican nominee for a congressional district near Houston.
Others disagreed, saying it is important for the White House to consider TikTok in its media strategy.
“You don’t have to be *on* TikTok to understand that it’s a major vector of information, especially for people under 30. So why wouldn’t it be part of the White House’s media strategy?” one Twitter user wrote.
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