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White House courts influencers ahead of high stakes speech

In an ongoing quest to connect with ever-elusive young voters, the White House briefed social media influencers.

The White House hosted about 70 creators, digital publishers, and influencers with around 100 million followers ahead of Joe Biden's State of the Union address, an official said
The White House hosted about 70 creators, digital publishers, and influencers with around 100 million followers ahead of Joe Biden's State of the Union address, an official said - Copyright AFP/File OLIVIER DOULIERY
The White House hosted about 70 creators, digital publishers, and influencers with around 100 million followers ahead of Joe Biden's State of the Union address, an official said - Copyright AFP/File OLIVIER DOULIERY

In an ongoing quest to connect with ever-elusive young voters, the White House briefed social media influencers ahead of President Joe Biden’s annual State of the Union address on Thursday.

The speech is a mainstay of the US political calendar, but the event has struggled to remain relevant in the social media age, especially among young people who largely tune out of traditional political coverage.

This year’s speech was crucial for the 81-year-old leader, who is facing intense scrutiny over whether he is still fit for office and ready for battle against former president Donald Trump in November’s electoral rematch.

In an effort to jazz up a new audience, officials held meetings with dozens of influencers, the White House said, in their search for some online buzz.

The White House hosted about 70 creators, digital publishers, and influencers with around 100 million followers in recent days, an official said on Thursday.

“The goal of these events is to brief creators on what’s going to be covered in the SOTU address, and reach audiences who aren’t as engaged with traditional media,” the official added.

For the first time, the State of the Union was livestreamed on Instagram, where the White House has 19 million followers.

The speech was also available on Facebook as well as X, the Elon Musk-owned platform formerly known as Twitter that has taken a decidedly right-leaning turn since the Tesla tycoon took over in 2022.

The White House made no mention of TikTok, the Chinese-owned app that is arguably the most popular with the younger audiences that Biden is trying to target.

On Wednesday, the White House lent support to a bill in the US Congress that would order TikTok to split from its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance.

That bill advanced in a Senate committee vote on Thursday, drawing a stinging rebuke from TikTok.

“This legislation has a predetermined outcome: a total ban of TikTok in the United States… and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country,” TikTok said.

TikTok also sent notifications to users asking them to call their representatives to complain about the proposed laws.

Reports from congressional offices said that their phones were being deluged with complaints.

The White House has blown hot and cold with TikTok, balancing its popularity among the app’s 170 million US users and its potential security risk as a Chinese company.

Last month Biden made his first video on the platform, with a light-hearted video on topics ranging from politics to the NFL championship game.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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