The Biden administration tapped teenage TikTok influencers last week to coordinate messaging on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and blame Vladimir Putin for rising gas prices, according to a recording of a call between White House officials and the social media stars.
Days later, Ellie Zeiler, and 18-year-old with more than 10 million followers on TikTok, posted a video in which she aimed to answer the question, “Why is gas so expensive?”
“Why is gas so expensive, and why is the United States inflation rate at a four-time decade high?” she begins the video. “I had the opportunity to ask the White House why gas down the street is $7 and here’s what they said.”
She said the first, “obvious reason,” is that demand is going up as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down and people resume traveling.
“But the call was predominantly about Ukraine and Russia, so how does that relate?” she continued. “Russia is one of the top three producers of oil and it is actually their No. 1 revenue source. Now, with Putin starting this horrific fight between Ukraine and Russia, nobody wants to work with him and do international trade.”
Zeiler was one of 30 TikTok stars to attend a March 10 Zoom meeting with White House officials and National Security Council staffers, the Washington Post reported last week. She posted her video Sunday.
Gen-Z for Change, an organization of influencers involved in the meeting, tweeted Friday that the discussion focused on the U.S. government’s “strategic goals in Ukraine so we’re better able to debunk misinformation.”
“As a coalition that reaches half a billion people, we are grateful that the White House chooses to work with us to keep people informed,” the group continued.
The Post also published a 51-minute recording of the call. Rob Flaherty, the White House director of digital strategy, told the TikTokers in the recording that the meeting would be similar to “a background call for reporters” and that he saw their reach as “a critically important avenue” to the American public.
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