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Opinion
Parmy Olson

TikTok Is Just the Platform Russian Dissidents Need

Though sometimes awash in disinformation, the app is also serving as an outlet for resisting Kremlin propaganda.

Russian TikTokkers join the fist bump video trend supporting — and defying — Putin.

Russian TikTokkers join the fist bump video trend supporting — and defying — Putin.

Source: TikTok. Illustration by Lara Williams.

Kremlin propaganda isn’t just piped into Russia’s brains via television. On TikTok, which suspended all new video uploads from Russia this week, some “influencers” managed to stand out in the sea of dancing and cooking clips by supporting President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The reach of this soft propaganda is potentially wide: TikTok is the 10th most popular app in Russia with more than 121 million downloads across the country, according to SensorTower, which tracks the app market.

One example from late last month shows a girl fist-bumping a mirror image of herself with the words “Russia” and “Donbas” displayed to show support for the Ukrainian region Putin claims to be liberating. Another TikTok user with 1.3 million followers and this one with 3.5 million created their own versions of the Donbas fist bump, joining similar videos from hundreds of other users, all with the same electronic background music.