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Trendy app TikTok becomes a medium to propagate news

FILE PHOTO: TikTok logos are seen in this illustration taken February 15, 2022. Picture taken February 15, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

When Russia invaded Ukraine last week, some of TikTok’s youngest users witnessed the conflict from the front lines. This led them to share videos on the app and let it out to the world. 

The news: The app, TikTok, which was previously known for fashion, fitness, and dance videos, was taken over by videos of people huddling and crying in windowless bomb shelters, explosions in urban settings, and missiles streaking across Ukrainian cities.

FILE PHOTO: Protesters hold banners during a rally against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Tokyo, Japan, February 26, 2022./File Photo
  • In these videos the influencers begged their followers to pray for Ukraine. A few even asked to donate to support the Ukrainian military, while also demanding Russian users in particular to join anti-war efforts.
  • Russia’s “special operation” invasion of Ukraine is the latest example of TikTok’s central role in bringing news and current events to the app’s large Gen Z audience. Its renowned algorithm is well-known for serving trending content to users even if they do not follow specific people, allowing topics to quickly go viral among its 1 billion monthly users.
  • While the TikTok app was previously known for pop culture videos, it is now being highly used as one of the greatest means to put the message on the internet and to the world.
FILE PHOTO: A woman reacts as she takes part in an anti-war protest, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Istanbul, Turkey February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya/File Photo

What’s going on: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to “TikTokers” as a group that could help end the war, in a speech directed at Russian citizens. Some TikTokers picked up where the politician left off.

  • A Ukrainian travel blogger with 36,000 followers, Alina Volik, took a break from posting highlights of her trips to Egypt, Spain and Turkey, and started uploading clips of life during the invasion. In her videos she urged her international followers to watch her Instagram Stories to “see the truth” about Ukraine.
  • In an email to Reuters, Volik said she wanted to combat misinformation in the Russian news that the country’s actions were a “military operation” rather than a war that is hurting Ukrainians.
  • While on the other hand, Russian influencers are also sharing their reactions. Niki Proshin, with over 763,000 TikTok followers, said in a video on Thursday that “normal people” in Russia do not support the war.
  • On Monday, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, demanded that the app stop including military-related content in recommended posts to minors, claiming that much of the content was anti-Russian in nature.
  • TikTok did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
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