‘Tiktokers’ and ‘kpopers’ enter the political arena | International

Part of the empty auditorium at the meeting of the President of the United States on June 20, in Tulsa.
Part of the empty auditorium at the meeting of the President of the United States on June 20, in Tulsa.NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

“There are two tickets for each phone number. They register you, they send you a code. And they are for you (free). I recommend to all of us who want to see this 19,000-seat auditorium barely full or completely empty, book now, and leave it there alone [a Donald Trump] on the stage. What do you say?”. Rushed, in just 56 seconds, the user of the social video network TikTok @maryjolaupp, white, about 50 years old, launched this outraged message about the convening of the first campaign act of the President of the United States since the emergence of the coronavirus, held finally on June 20 in Tulsa (Oklahoma, in the mid west of the country, 403,000 inhabitants). Like her, who registered more than 700,000 likes in her proposal, many others urged the boycott, and more followed. At the end, empty seats were seen in the city pavilion, although the debate on the causes and influence of social networks on the result is open.

“Ok, I already have 150 tickets, but I will have more, no problem. I send it to my K-pop chat group. They are helping too (they are 200) ”, wrote @ bangtan_legends7 in one of the more than 6,000 comments from another user who incited the sabotage of the kpopers, a massive community of teenagers and young lovers of Korean gangs characterized by strong social activism. Five days before the event, the president of the Trump re-election campaign, Brad Parscale, already boasted on Twitter that he had received more than a million seat reservation requests and extra infrastructure was installed to follow the act live. They were not used. The Tulsa fire department counted some 6,200 people at the rally, but the president’s office flatly denied that “leftists and trolls Internet “learn their methods to remove phone numbers that were classified as false and will be raffled to occupy virtually unused seats.

The Republicans reject having been intimidated by a movement that is more adolescent than young and argued for the low number of attendees that anti-racist protests outside the compound complicated the entry of Trump supporters. Several US media reported that the low influx may have been due to the reluctance of citizens concerned about a contagion of the coronavirus – the absence of masks and due social distance was evident; they indicated that the campaign started from a calculation error due to the expectations of previous events; And they pointed out that even Trump supporters reserved just to support the act, but with no intention of going.

But, outside with more or less incidence, the controversy has focused on the organization and action capacity of adolescents and young people through social networks. “There is undoubtedly a growing political involvement among Tiktok users. And the most interesting thing is their ages, they are the future voters. It can be translated at the ballot box “, declares Ioana Literat, creativity researcher on-line and youth participation from Columbia University. He has studied this platform for more than two years, which in 2019 was the second most downloaded application in the world, according to a SensorTower report. “They prepare their interventions with deliberation and intention, they select the resources, the music … And they imagine a wide audience,” adds the expert, who has detected a notable growth in the use of the tool during the pandemic.

From dances to debates

It also warns of a substantial change in the use of the platform, designed primarily to share videos of dance, music and entertainment. “For example, there is a split-screen video template intended for song duets, but they are increasingly used for political debate. A user invites others to give their arguments for or against, “says Literat. For data scientist at the University of Munich Juan Carlos Medina, these duets are an unprecedented arena of public debate. “You can see discussions of a 13-year-old person with another 40-year-old, unknown to each other, side by side,” says the expert, who warns of the risk of giving biometric data and of the harassment into which this exhibition can be translated. “Users are like the news, the presenters. Journalists are not the guardians of the information. They are the protagonists, they don’t just share one link from another. They are the ones who generate the chain of communication in short and viral videos, with specific arguments and to capture attention, “concludes Medina, co-author of a study that analyzed 8,000 TikTok videos on politics in the United States.

“TikTok is working in political terms,” ​​adds Medina. And these changes have removed the Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance, which has already been engulfed in more than one controversy and has a similar but exclusive app for China called Douyin. In September 2019, The Guardian revealed that there were moderators to monitor information on Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence or on the tensions in Hong Kong. “In the early days of TikTok, we took a forceful approach to minimize conflict within the platform, and our guidelines for restraint allowed us to impose sanctions for content that promoted it, for example among religious sects or ethnic groups. But when it took off globally last year, we recognized this was not the right approach and we started working to train local teams that have a nuanced understanding of each market, ”sources at TikTok report.

Strategy changes

For Medina, the fact that TikTok has hired the maximum responsible in streaming Disney as CEO could be a statement of intent. “They have realized that political use cannot be stopped, although algorithms can be changed (to control visibility). Perhaps now they have more western standards, “says the researcher. “The above guidelines are outdated and no longer used. We also understand the need to be more transparent when communicating policies to maintain a safe and positive application environment, ”added the sources of TikTok, where an extensive document entitled“ Also has been developed ”. Community standards against criminal activities. “We greatly appreciate that our users belong to a wide variety of nationalities and cultures, and we take into account the cultural norms of the countries in which we operate,” the text reads.

In recent weeks the company has apologized in a statement to the black community for “a technical problem” that made it seem temporarily as if the posts loaded with the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd received zero visits. The incident caused a major stir in the users of social networks.

Also among kpopers, who in addition to recognizing that they acted to boycott Trump’s act, promote in a committed way sexual diversity and equal rights. Lovers of the BTS band, which alone on Twitter has 26.7 million followers, claim to have raised a million dollars (890,000 euros) for groups linked to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. “We also observe that the difference between activism is getting shorter and shorter on-line and activism offline. They are not all, of course, but those involved in the causes are remarkable, “highlights Literat.

The kpopers, with a strong presence on Twitter, have already developed other collective and organized actions to saturate the hashtags of political proposals or parties that they consider unfair. They use so-called fancam —Brief videos of performances by their idols or other themes— with the idea of ​​collapsing the communication channels of those who attempt against the causes they defend and complicate the reading of their messages. “They act in a coordinated way. And the tools on-line help them to be interconnected. Only the initiative to boycott the Trump act has already contaminated the party’s databases, “concludes Literat.

The actions of the kpopers They also arrive in Spain. In June, Vox’s Twitter account was filled with Korean pop videos of retouched images of Santiago Abascal.

After the campaign against the US president’s rally in Tulsa, it is guessed that both politicians and those responsible for communication tools will have to face the challenge of understanding and responding to the initiatives of an increasingly young population that is entering the political sphere.

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