VICE News conducted an investigation that unveiled a coordinated campaign that funded Russian TikTok influencers to post videos that would push pro-Kremlin narratives and propaganda regarding the war in the Ukraine.
According to VICE News, a number of campaigns have been coordinated within a secret Telegram channel constructed to direct Russian TikTok content creators on what they should be saying, where to capture their videos, what hashtags to be using with each post, and when exactly to post the content.
The report states that the campaigns were launched at the beginning of the invasion and that they involved a number of the highest-profile influencers on TikTok, with many having over a million followers to their pages.
Despite TikTok banning new uploads from users located within Russia, it has not stopped these campaigns.
VICE News reported that the Telegram channel is run by an anonymous administrator, claiming to be a journalist, who recruits social media influencers. That admin then lays out the requirements, such as the minimum views required and the date and time that they post would need to be posted. The admin also asks how much money each influencer would require per post, although it is unclear who is funding the campaigns.
VICE News goes on to detail a specific campaign on Wednesday evening which was seeking out TikTok creators to post videos that called for national unity, while using a track featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin calling for all ethnic groups in Russia to unite during this time. The Telegram group instructed creators which audio track to use, which emojis, and what test to use when posting their videos, while also providing a step-by-step guide on how to circumvent TikTok’s ban on uploads from Russian accounts.
The Telegram group was shut down on Wednesday, but had surpassed 500 members prior to that point.