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How Russia’s invasion of Ukraine played to social media’s youngest audience -Breaking

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© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: This is a woman’s reaction to Russia’s invasion Ukraine in Istanbul, Turkey, February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya/File Photo

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Elizabeth Culliford & Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – Some of the youngest social media users witnessed the conflict last week from TikTok’s frontlines when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Video footage showing people hiding in windowsless bomb shelters and crying, as well as explosions blazing through cities and missiles streaking across Ukrainian cities, took the app away from its normal offerings for fashion, dance, and fitness videos.

Ukrainian social media users uploaded dark scenes showing themselves covered in blankets and being rolled down streets by army tanks and underground bunkers. These were juxtaposed with photos featuring flowers, laughing friends and peaceful memories at local restaurants.

The leaders urged followers to pray and donate for Ukraine’s military, as well as urging Russian-speaking users to get involved in anti-war causes.

Russia’s invading of Ukraine is just one example of how TikTok plays a central role in providing news and current events for its large Gen Z audience. The app’s famous algorithm can serve trending content to users even though they don’t follow specific people. This allows topics to go viral quickly among the 1 billion monthly users.

In a speech addressed to Russian citizens, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on “TikTokers”, a group that can help end war. Some TikTokers took the politician’s lead.

Alina Volik (a Ukrainian travel blogger) took a short break from sharing highlights from her trips to Egypt and Spain on TikTok to post videos about life during the invasion. She also uploaded emergency bags filled with first aid supplies, and sealed windows that protect against any glass shattering in a blast. Volik encouraged her TikTok followers worldwide to view her Instagram Stories on Monday to see the “truth” about Ukraine in TikTok video posts.

Volik wrote to Reuters to say that she wants to fight misinformation from Russian news and that Russian actions were a military operation, not a war.

You can see pictures of destroyed residential buildings, empty shelves of grocery stores and lines of cars outside petrol stations on TikTok pages by top Ukrainian influencers.

With 2,000,000 followers, “@zaluznik”, posted a similar Montage Sunday. It included the caption: “Russians open their eyes!”

Russian influencers took to the app as well to express their opinions. Niki Proshin (with over 7633,000 TikTok fans) said that Russian “normal people” do not support war.

“None my friends, and none of those people that I personally speak to supported today’s events,” he stated in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communication regulator, demanded that the app remove military-related content from recommended posts for minors. He claimed much of this content was anti-Russian. TikTok didn’t immediately reply to our request for comment.

According to online misinformation experts, false information was being mixed in with real ones. It spread quickly on TikTok as well other platforms such as Meta Platforms’s Facebook, Twitter (NYSE:), and Alphabet’s YouTube.

Social media users shared footage from military simulation video game Arma 3. They also showed images of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Gaza Strip. Old footage, heavy firing, and animated flying plane animations. These videos were posted on the internet as though they represented the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

TikTok’s spokesperson stated that the company continues to closely monitor and respond to new trends. TikTok also works with fact checking agencies.

Many TikTok users from Ukraine made it their mission to communicate information with Westerners and raise awareness.

Marta Vasyuta (20 years old) said Monday that she wanted people to see this was not a joke.

Vasyuta showed what looked like a rocket in the sky. One TikTok video included the caption, “Kyiv 4.23 AM.” As users filled the video with prayers and disbelief, it had received over 131,000 comment by Monday.

Un user said, “Never dreamed I would receive WAR updates from TIKTOK.”

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