How to fight Russian propaganda on TikTok

Ukrainian Center for Countering Disinformation (a working body of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine) has started official cooperation with the administration of the social network TikTok to counter the spread of Russian propaganda on the platform. This step was the result of the publication by the CPC of a list of TikTok channels that actively disseminate hostile propaganda. Currently, the Center is actively cooperating with TikTok to block access to these channels in Ukraine.

Russians create a lot of artificial accounts that mimic the media, upload videos with the right messages, and then bots use the TikTok algorithm to promote these videos to a wide audience.

TikTok has now become the main platform for Russian propaganda to reach the Ukrainian audience. This was stated by Andriy Kovalenko, head of the Center for Countering Disinformation and Defense Council. According to him, the Russians began using the TikTok platform, which provides a large coverage, around the first half of 2023.

This is a great example for other countries to pay more attention to combating Russian information influence through social media. Unfortunately, Moscow is trying to influence not only Ukraine but also most Western countries. This problem is becoming especially relevant for EU countries on the eve of the European Parliament elections.

Experts were able to identify five main areas of Russian disinformation spread through TikTok:

1. Discrediting the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

This is content aimed at showing the weakness of the Ukrainian Armed Forces compared to the Russian army. The propagandists post videos allegedly from the Ukrainian military, who talk about the “surrender” of Ukrainian cities and the inability to resist the Russians.

They also post other videos: about the poor equipment and lack of supply of the Ukrainian Armed Forces; about praising the Russian Defense Ministry as opposed to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry; videos from cemeteries with Ukrainian flags as proof of the huge losses of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

2. Treason.

These narratives are aimed at undermining Ukraine’s public and state institutions. They disseminate content that speaks of the betrayal of the country’s leaders. They talk about the special goals of the leadership that are at odds with the interests of ordinary Ukrainians. The authorities treat the people as “cattle” and so on.

3. Neo-Nazis in power and in the army.

This category includes the favorite stories of Russian propagandists that Ukraine is allegedly ruled by neo-Nazis and that the horrific images of the bombing of Ukraine are the work of Nazis and fascists. This is one of the most popular and absurd narratives of Russian propaganda against Ukraine.

4. Harassment of believers of the Russian Orthodox Church.

TikTok distributed videos about the oppression of the Russian Orthodox Church. For example, some TikTokers even took an active part in provocations on the territory of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and called for resistance to the intentions to limit the influence of the UOC-MP. Moscow is actively trying to use the sensitivity of religious issues to destabilize the situation in Ukraine and demonize Kyiv for international audiences.

5. Corruption and the negative economic situation in the country.

Content that talks about normal life before the war, which may return if the war ends. This is how they hint at concessions to the aggressor. And these “arguments” are reinforced by videos with exorbitant prices and no explanation of the reasons for the rise in prices.

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