Ukrainian TikTok influencers become war correspondents for foreigners

After the Russian invasion, Ukrainian TikTok Influencers changed the content on their pages. Entertainment and motivational videos have turned into reports from bomb shelters and appeal to support the Ukrainian army. Although some of them often misinform their audience, hundreds of thousands continue to follow the events in Ukraine on TikTok.

The Verge has published an article about Ukrainian Tiktokers, who were called “war correspondents” for users from other countries, about how they influence the image of Ukrainians, collect charitable donations, and how many fakes they spread. AIN.Capital shares the highlights of the article.

Until February 24, Kristina Korban from Kyiv had an English-language blog about sports motivation and personal finances. Today her videos are about the events in the capital of Ukraine. Kristina goes live daily, regularly posts videos about air-raid sirens, her family’s food inventory, and grocery store lines in Kyiv.

She has over 600,000 followers, and one of her posts has been viewed by 9.6 million people. The blogger’s audience is people from different countries who knew practically nothing about Ukraine until the recent events.

Sometimes TikTok removes Kristina’s posts. For example, a video of her crying in the dark to the sound of explosions has been removed for “graphic content.” And the clip where Korban jokingly says that everything Ukrainian women do want for International Women’s Day are tanks, bullets, and fighter jets, has also been removed without an explanation.

Once her page was even banned for several days for inappropriate content, but she continued to post videos on her backup account. “I believe there is a lot of chaos when people receive wrong information, so I do my best to be as honest and factual as I can with the knowledge that I possess and learn as we go through this day by day. I aim to provide at least a little bit of clarity for those that trust in me. I feel it is my duty,” Kristina says.

The blogger also raises funds for charity. She has sold over 2,500 T-shirts, the earnings from which will go to Ukrainians affected by the war. Kristina has also launched a fundraising campaign called Help Ukrainians in Need Impacted by War with a $1 million goal. So far, she’s already managed to raise $29,000. In the comments under the video announcing the donation, there are a lot of skeptics who do not trust Kristina.

Pages like Kristina Korban’s have become another source of information for foreigners about the war in Ukraine. Sometimes people follow events only on TikTok, ignoring media reports. However, along with personal blogs of Ukrainians, misinformation began to spread on social media.

According to a report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Russian state-controlled accounts have successfully used the platform to spread Kremlin propaganda. As per the ISD, organized disinformation presenting Ukraine as an aggressor and its soldiers and politicians as Nazis garnered millions of views on TikTok before March 4, when the report was published.

Individual bloggers have also posted TikTok videos justifying the Russian invasion. A viral compilation shows that Influencers spread content made using the same script, saying that “Russia wants to bring peace.” An investigation by Vice News revealed that some Russian TikTok influencers were offered money in exchange for posting pro-Russian propaganda, though it is unclear who funded and organized it.

TikTok has responded that it would begin adding labels to videos from Russian-controlled media. On March 6, the company announced that it would suspend live streams and new uploads in Russia.

Unfortunately, Ukrainian users also spread misinformation. An example is the “Ghost of Kyiv” character, whose existence is questioned. Currently, the #Ghostofkyiv has over 435 million views on TikTok. Ukrainians have also been sharing videos unrelated to the war in Ukraine, claiming them as such. For example, videos from games or fighting in other parts of the world.