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What role is TikTok playing in the war in Ukraine?

Between typical days in the bunkers of Kiev and the tiktokers chosen by Biden to narrate the conflict

What role is TikTok playing in the war in Ukraine? Between typical days in the bunkers of Kiev and the tiktokers chosen by Biden to narrate the conflict

Social media is taking on an unexpected and crucial role in the narrative, if not the unfolding, of the war that is being waged on Ukrainian soil following the invasion by Russian troops on 28 February, so much that many have ventured to call the conflict 'the first TikTok war': the first clash to be narrated through real-time clips and also the first to be interpreted through the culture and rhythms of the app. Much more than Instagram, especially thanks to less strict censorship algorithms, the platform has been the main medium for spreading news from Ukraine to the rest of the world, but while Ukrainian citizens hiding in bomb shelters or fleeing their homes have shared their stories on the app, on the other hand the platform has also been a way to spread fake news and pro-Russian propaganda. 

@valerisssh Putin, I wait u in Chernihiv

On TikTok, Ukrainian Gen Z kids have gone from sharing glossy holiday pictures to documenting their typical day in the bunkers of Kiev, like @valerisssh, not to mention various "pov: you live in Ukraine" pictures showing windowless houses and people crawling under their blankets fully clothed to be ready in case the air-raid siren sounds. @moneykristina, who became famous on the platform thanks to her videos on cryptocurrencies and NFT, found herself capturing the exact moment a missile took off into the sky in front of her, as a line of cars snaked its way towards the petrol station. The White House has been closely following TikTok's rise as the dominant news source, deciding on Thursday afternoon to round up the platform's top 30 stars on Zoom to provide them with key information about the ongoing war, from humanitarian aid distribution to collaboration with NATO to how the US would react if Russia used nuclear weapons. It was an outreach bordering on propaganda that White House digital strategy director Rob Flaherty justified by saying "we wanted to make sure you got the latest information from an authoritative source."

@martavasyuta #Ukraine bringing the era back yall - chuuyas gf

While in many Western countries the properties of the oligarchs are being seized and the images of the young women of the Russian elite, for years symbols of luxury and privilege - such as that of the goddaughter of the Russian foreign minister Lavrov, the daughter of Abramovich former president of Chelsea, or the niece of former Russian president El Cin - are slowly disappearing from social networks, or the niece of former Russian president El'Cin - Russia has moved to block Instagram and Whatsapp, after its parent company, Meta, said it would allow calls for violence against Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers involved in the invasion of Ukraine to be published on the platforms. A crackdown by the social media giant will further limit most Russians' access to outside information about the war, increasing the influence of state media along with new legislation against Russians accused of sharing "false information" about the war that includes up to 15 years in prison.

@aaronparnas6 3/12 7:05 PM EST #russia #ukraine #usa #us #peace #news #breakingnews #foryoupage #foryou #fyp #trending #viral original sound - Aaron Parnas

Collective memory associates specific wars with different media formats: Vietnam was the first television war, the first Iraq war in 1991 was the first cable news war, twelve years after the US invasion of Iraq it was called the YouTube war, in 2012 Israel and Hamas allegedly participated in the first tweet war, in 2016 Time announced the first Facebook war, referring to a live stream of Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting to drive the Islamic State out of Mosul. Wars have been named after platforms regardless of whether the platforms in question actually determined how people thought, lived, documented, fought, that same war. In this case, while social media have been an outlet to exorcise Gen Z's emotions, sometimes through cynical memes bordering on bad taste, the videos that have shown unfiltered the violence taking place on the other side of Europe have also contributed significantly to an unprecedented surge of solidarity and emotional participation. Yet today, more than ever before, the fact that a social network is becoming the main source of information for young people on matters of world politics is misleading, polarising and frightening more than ever, yet if there is one thing that distinguishes the impact of TikTok from all other social networks it is precisely the personalisation of the content proposed to individual users on the basis of algorithms: for each person the app is an individual experience in which, however, it is never entirely up to us to decide, so, perhaps juxtaposed grotesquely with Shein's dances and hauls, even the most disinterested people can be offered a glimpse of current affairs.