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Saturday, April 13, 2024

How Rock the Vote Became Tok the Vote

For the past few months, your social feeds have probably been filled with slickly produced campaign ads. Unless TikTok happens to be your social app of choice. A year ago, TikTok said it would ban all political advertising on the app. That move, coupled with concerns about the fact that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, means that politicians have largely stayed away from the hugely popular app.

That doesn’t mean that TikTok is free of politics. Quite the opposite. The app’s mostly young user base has been trying to harness the power of the platform and its signature features—dance duets, shaky camera effects, and text-heavy, rapid deliveries of information—to meme the US presidential election. One group in particular organized around this mission, coming up with a strategy to release a series of TikTok videos about campaign issues in mid-October. They called this effort Tok the Vote, a play on the nonprofit political organization that looked to mobilize young voters back in the 1990’s. (Those Gen X voters are on Facebook now; Gen Z can’t be bothered with your Facebook.)

How do you measure the influence of a get-out-the-vote movement when it happens through a series of 30-second videos that are loosely connected through virtual “hype houses”? That’s what we talked to WIRED senior writer Arielle Pardes about on this week’s Get WIRED podcast. She takes us deep inside the world of political TikTok, the impressive creators who are making the videos, and how they’ve helped galvanize young voters who are likely to remain active long past this election season.

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