FROM DANCE TO POLITICS
TikTok has seen explosive growth in recent years. While the app owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance was known in its earlier days for teens' viral challenges and dance trends, it has increasingly become a destination for political content.
“It's just interesting the way that TikTok kind of connects younger audiences to politics and world events,” said Nina Jankowicz, a researcher who works with the UK-based Centre for Information Resilience to verify open source content about the crisis. “No other platform really has done that to the same degree.”
But she believes the online engagement is unlikely to generate offline action, such as large scale protests.
Videos explaining the Russia-Ukraine crisis have also been circulating, some from the West and others that appear to be from Russia.
Myca Hinton, a 21-year-old student at Fordham University in New York who posts news and commentary videos on TikTok, has received thousands of views on her videos about the crisis. She hopes they will help high school students better understand what they learn in school and inform college students who might not watch TV or have newspaper subscriptions.
Hinton said she tailors her language to a younger audience, adding puns and easy-to-understand words.
“I think that TikTok has definitely played a huge role in where we get our information or where we sort of formulate our opinions, just because that is the app that everyone's on right now,” said Hinton, who posts under the handle @mycahinton.
Russian-language videos explaining the crisis have also been posted, in addition to videos purportedly showing military equipment on the move.
One user, Maxim, with 29,000 followers and who uses the handle @novosileckij, has racked up almost 1 million views for an explainer video expressing doubt that Russia will actually invade Ukraine.