photo of a hand holding a mobile phone showing the TikTok app

Russia's TikTok: Micro-influencers amplifying misinformation

12 July 2023
How Russia’s war against Ukraine is being fought on TikTok
Dr Olga Boichak, a sociologist and social media expert, unpacks the rise of micro-influencers on Russian TikTok and the radicalised narratives around the Russia/Ukraine war.

The use of social media to document conflict is not a new phenomenon. For the past two decades, the recognition of platforms as a witness to history has gathered pace. However, as part of this, it has also opened the conversation up to various kinds of mis and disinformation.

The world’s fastest growing social media app, TikTok, is redefining the global narrative around the war in Ukraine. Dr Olga Boichak from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences sat down with 360info, a research-driven news wire, to discuss the surge in user participation since the invasion which has become known as participatory war.

woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Dr Olga Boichak.

"Russia's war against Ukraine has been very prominently represented on social media. It has generated a massive amount of user involvement, something that we refer to as participatory war,” Dr Boichak said. “That created fertile ground for various kinds of mis and disinformation, around the war.”

"What ended up emerging is this Russian TikTok which is almost exclusively in the Russian language and is much more radicalised than the TikTok we are all part of,” Dr Boichak said. “There is also a very interesting social phenomenon, and that's the rise of this political micro-influencer where these are strategic communicative actors that propagate certain beliefs and ideas on behalf of states and even some non-state entities."

Dr Boichak, a Lecturer in Digital Cultures recently released a paper around computational propaganda, which maps the Russian political influence ecosystem and seeks to find out why, in Western democracies, social groups with a history of non-conformism appear to be delivering talking points for Russia’s geopolitical aspirations.

"These political micro-influencers have become the key communicators of these strategic narratives on behalf of the Russian state,” Dr Boichak said. “And this is something that's very hard to regulate.”

Watch the 360 interview

Dr Olga Boichak, a Lecturer in Digital Cultures in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

This video was first published by 360info, a research-driven news wire. Top photo: Adobe Stock

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