Published on: November 16, 2023
The popular video-sharing app, TikTok, is pushing back against claims that it pushes anti-Israel content that steers US youths into supporting Palestine.
Prominent US politicians, including Senator Josh Hawley (R) and Senator Marc Rubio (R), have levied aggressive criticisms that “China’s TikTok Pushes Pro-Hamas Propaganda.”
“TikTok, and its parent company ByteDance, are threats to American national security,” said Josh Hawley in an open letter. “According to one poll, 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that Hamas’s murder of civilians was justified.”
“The Marxist bias on TikTok reflects more than left-wing thought among millennials and Generation Z,” Rubio said in a press release. “Torrents of pro-Hamas, anti-Israel content now flood TikTok.”
TikTok responded to these claims by stating that its algorithm doesn’t take sides and that the stats Republican lawmakers are using are misrepresentative of the full situation.
“Blunt comparisons of hashtags is severely flawed and misrepresentative of the activity on TikTok,” TikTok said. They use the example of #standwithIsrael, which is associated with fewer videos than #freePalestine, but gets 68% more views per video in the US.
They retort that a difference in views is to be expected when they have a large number of users in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, meaning the total number of hashtags tells you nothing.
TikTok also denied claims of growing anti-semitism on its platform by stating that it “removed 100% of antisemitic or Holocaust denial content,” and that “Nine times out of ten, TikTok removes hate speech before it’s reported.”
TikTok also reports that it finds the same volume of anti-Israel content on other popular social media platforms, like Facebook. It compares the 5.7 million total posts on Facebook tagged with #FreePalestine, while only 278K posts were tagged with #standwithIsrael.
Despite TikTok’s counterarguments, Republican lawmakers are making continued efforts to push for a national TikTok ban.