As the 2024 Presidential Election campaign draws ever closer, the Joe Biden administration is launching something of a preemptive strike as it deputizes social media influencers with a potential briefing room base at the White House.
The initiative is so significant that the man in charge of managing influencers, Rob Flaherty, has been named as Assistant to the President, a post on the same level as the White House Communications Director and Press Secretary, Axios reported on April 9.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Jen O’Malley Dillon, told Axios, “We’re trying to reach young people, but also moms who use different platforms to get information and climate activists and people whose main way of getting information is digital.”
Axios adds that “hundreds of unpaid, independent content creators” have been granted with “access to Biden’s White House,” verbiage that is later clarified to mean that “the administration is moving toward giving influencers their own briefing room in the White House.”
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The scope and breath of the influencer campaign is significant, including granting the personalities access to Biden while the President is on the road.
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Many of the influencers are centralized on the Chinese Communist Party’s TikTok video platform.
One such individual with almost 14 million followers whose niche focuses on asking drivers of fine cars what they do for work was invited to ask Biden the same question at the Detroit Auto Show.
Some others who Axios said are invited to the White House base are a 20-year-old New York University student who runs a daily news briefing segment to 660,000 TikTok followers and an Asian American woman who describes herself as an “Ex-Wall Streeter Helping YOU get Rich” with 2.4 million TikTok followers.
Axios speculates the initiative is to counter former President Donald Trump’s Internet following, “Biden’s followings on social media don’t compare with Trump’s, especially on especially on Youtube and Facebook,” the article states.
Trump also owns his own Twitter clone, Truth Social, which he uses almost exclusively to communicate with his followers after being completely censored following the 2020 Presidential Election and the Jan. 6 Capitol Building riots.
“Biden’s strategy is aimed more at platforms favored by younger voters, such as Instagram and TikTok,” Axios adds.
TikTok’s reach is extremely significant. According to Datareportal, 113 million Americans over the age of 18 use the app.
Not only does nearly a third of the population consume TikTok, but the platform reaches 20 percent of all 18+ Internet users, a segment that includes more than 13 percent of all 18+ human beings on Earth.
Additionally, worldwide TikTok demographics are heavily skewed towards women, with 54.1 percent being females and 45.9 percent being males.
But March reporting by corporate watchdog group Eko showed that TikTok is also a faucet for dangerous and harmful content.
Employing a series of automated accounts self-reporting their age as only 13-years-old to examine the TikTok algorithm, Eko found that the platform heavily pushed both content encouraging suicide and accounts that advertise Telegram channels where illicit narcotics can be bought with international shipping despite the accounts’ age.
The plan was given something of a test pilot in March when The White House invited 30 TikTok influencers to a teleconference hosted on the CCP-linked Zoom platform to disseminate talking points on the Russian Federation’s Special Operation in Ukraine, reported The Washington Post.
Staffers from the National Security Council and at-the-time Press Secretary Jen Psaki “briefed the influencers about the United States’ strategic goals in the region and answered questions on distributing aid to Ukrainians, working with NATO and how the United States would react to a Russian use of nuclear weapons,” the article stated.
“The White House has been closely watching TikTok’s rise as a dominant news source, leading to its decision to approach a select group of the platform’s most influential names,” the Post added.
But the administration has been testing the waters with influencers for much of its tenure.
In October of 2022, state-affiliated media outlet National Public Radio reported that social media influencers had been invited to The White House for an event celebrating the passing of the latest of several multi-trillion dollar spending and stimulus packages.
“More than 20 people were there with ring lights and audio equipment, taking it all in. It’s part of a White House strategy to reach younger people where they are, which often is scrolling on a device, with help from influencers,” an NPR host stated.
They added, “I thought perhaps it was going to be similar to what we see from legacy media groups who get a press briefing from the press secretary. And this was a little bit more intimate than that.”
A remark by one of the influencers illustrated the impact this type of gesture can have on amateur reporters, “Honestly, I don’t care what side of the aisle you are on. When the president and the vice president walks in a room, it’s a cool moment.”
Also in October of 2022, the Democratic National Committee paid for “an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C.” that involved a personal meeting between eight TikTok influencers and Joe Biden, according to reporting by indie outlet Washington Free Beacon.
The Beacon noted that all of the invitees were under 30, of the white race, and “had previously been largely apolitical, encouraging their fans to vote but not explicitly backing parties or candidates,” and that “the DNC did not sugarcoat its objective.”
The eight were received with a DNC-sponsored dinner that “focused on issues like reproductive rights and strategizing how to best leverage [the TikTokers’] audiences for the midterms,” the article stated.
One 22-year-old influencer was paraphrased as having “even implied that the DNC had identified specific congressional districts for the TikTokers to target in their videos.”
The Free Beacon’s reporting was based on coverage of the topic by The Washington Post.
Reaching farther back, in November of 2021, “Dozens of Twitch streamers, YouTubers and TikTokers,” in addition to pop star Olivia Rodrigo were sent to “the White House as it tries drum up vaccination numbers and combat the scourge of vaccine misinformation being spread on social media,” reported Spectrum News NY1.
“The social media stars asked questions about the vaccines. For anyone who wasn’t watching the actual town hall, the influencers shared excerpts on their own channels,” the article stated.
One YouTube influencer said in a video prior to being given an interview with Biden and former NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, “I honestly don’t even know where this opportunity came from.”
“I mean, probably from YouTube, I’m sure. But the team that reached out said that they were fans of me, and as it pertains to issues that relate to the Black community, they wanted someone of the youth to be a representative, so they chose me,” she added.
The trend goes beyond politics. In March, University of Colorado researchers examined how Big Pharma had begun extensively using patient social media influencers as part of its multi-billion dollar direct to consumer advertising technique.
The research stated the fad began as government-mandated work from home and lockdown mandates in the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic had changed the landscape, “But as the pandemic also accelerated many new creator-driven social trends, including short video and social commerce, marketers quickly resumed and are now increasing their spending on influencer marketing, as they realize that influencers are their ticket to reach those audiences.”
The survey targeted influencers recruited from a firm run by former GlaxoSmithKline Director-level employees and found that the method had become a critical pipeline to reach age and health literacy demographics that have come to trust social media personalities more than doctors.