A new study reveals that extreme anti-Semitism is being spread using the social media platform Tik Tok, which is popular with children and young adults.
By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel
A new study shows that the popular social media app TikTok is being used to spread extreme anti-Semitism.
Researchers at the University of Haifa discovered that anti-Semites, Holocaust-deniers and other extremists are exploiting TikTok’s popularity among younger users to spread hate messages and incitement.
Published in the academic journal Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, the study used a systematic content analysis to scan TikTok for content from far-right individuals and groups.
“Unlike all other social media, TikTok’s users are almost all young children, who are more naïve and gullible when it comes to malicious contents,” the study noted.
“TikTok is the newest platform thus severely lagging behind its rivals, who have had more time to grapple with how to protect their users from disturbing and harmful contents,” the report concluded.”Yet, TikTok should have learned from these other platforms’ experiences and apply TikTok’s own Terms of Service that does not allow postings that are deliberately designed to provoke or antagonize people, or are intended to harass, harm, hurt, scare, distress, embarrass or upset people or include threats of physical violence.”
Research team leader Prof. Gabriel Weimann teaches communication at the University of Haifa and is also a senior researcher at the Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT). He and Natalie Masri, a research assistant and graduate student at ICT produced the report, titled “Spreading Hate on TikTok.”
TikTok Violates its Own Rules
The report is backed up my reports in the media like a feature article in Newsweek last month that slammed the ease with which Tik Tok could be used to promote anti-Semitism.
“TikTok’s explore page has featured anti-Semitic content, which goes against TikTok’s own community standards,” said the Newsweek piece, adding that only 20 percent of reported hate videos are removed and noting that Tik Tok leaving 80 percent of hate material online was still “better than other social media platforms.
However, “Rhe volume of content on TikTok is growing faster and the consequences are the same—if not worse—because many users are impressionable children and teenagers.”
Between February and May the Israeli researchers found 196 postings by far-right extremists, most associated with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial including 14 postings of Hitler speeches; 11 Nazi “sieg heil” salute videos, 17 videos encouraging violence that featured Nazi symbols and 26 accounts featuring the numbers “88” in their username, the white supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler.”
Although the Chinese-developed app has 800 million active users who can upload lip-synched videos of up to 60-seconds, the researchers explain that Tik Tok “has a darker side,” particularly with regard to TikTok’s popularity among the younger generation.
Forty-one percent of TikTok’s users are between ages 16 and 24, and although its terms of service prohibit users under age 13, many users who appear in videos are clearly younger. This creates an environment of vulnerability that is exploited by extremist groups.
“While most of the scholarly attention focused on social media has examined content from leading platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism occurring on platforms like TikTok had gone largely unnoticed until this new study,” said Karen Berman, head of the American Society of the University of Haifa.
“The insights and data revealed in the report will inform the efforts of social media platforms, regulatory bodies and the general public to expunge hate and extremism from the internet,” she hopes.
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