The Biden administration announced this week that it plans to utilize social media influencers to “combat scams and misinformation” about the new federal student loan debt relief program. The White House has repeatedly enlisted TikTok stars to push the administration’s preferred messaging, including previous campaigns focused on vaccines and the invasion of Ukraine.
“The White House will engage directly with digital creators and influencers on social media platforms to help spread accurate information about the program and alerts concerning potential scams,” the White House fact sheet read.
The announcement comes just days after Biden came under heavy scrutiny for walking back student loan forgiveness eligibility, a move that NPR called a “remarkable reversal.” An administration official told the news outlet that 800,000 borrowers would no longer be qualified to receive the relief.
The White House hopes its “influencer army” will help reach and spread more desirable information about the Biden administration to younger audiences.
After passing the Inflation Reduction Act, the administration invited 20 social media influencers to the South Lawn of the White House, where they were briefed on the legislation. Select online personalities with large audiences received a special invitation to attend the event.
V Spehar, a TikTok user with 2.7 million followers, told NPR, “I got a magical email from the digital communications team at the White House saying they were going to be doing essentially a creator briefing for the Inflation Reduction Act.”
The influencers who attended the intimate event were briefed in the Roosevelt Room by members of the National Economic Council, the climate policy office, President Biden, and Vice President Harris.
Rob Flaherty, the White House director of digital strategy, told NPR, “The reality is, if we want to go out and talk to a wide amount of people whose lives are going to be impacted by the Inflation Reduction Act, and both take credit and also tell people how they can access some of the benefits, then we need to get out into the digital communities that people exist in — and that means spending time with digital creators who have huge reaches into those audiences.”
Pew Research reported that 33% of individuals ages 18 to 29 said they get their news from social media.
“We’re not expecting them to become Biden administration propagandists,” Flaherty said. “But we want to make sure that they have the best information that they can get and be able to ask questions, just like reporters would, to be able to inform their audiences.”