There are calls to boycott TikTok because it is considered to support Palestinian lifestyle – 13 hours ago

Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia TikTok is back in the spotlight in the United States (US) after claims emerged that the social media video encouraged the younger generation to support Palestine and Hamas.

Launching from Al Jazeerapoliticians and senators, Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio, as well as assemblyman, Mike Gallagher, called on the US to ban TikTok for its alleged bias towards anti-Israel and anti-Jewish content.

“Even though data security issues are of the utmost importance, TikTok’s ability to change the worldview facing US youth is rarely discussed. Israel’s war with Hamas is an important test,” Hawley said in his letter to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, quoted Saturday ( 11/11/2023).


In his letter, Hawley cited the CAPS-Harris Harvard poll which showed that 51 percent of US teenagers aged 18 to 24 years sided with Hamas which attacked Israel on October 7 2023, in contrast to US senior citizens who strongly support Israel.

“Analysts attribute these results to the abundance of anti-Israel content on TikTok, where most teenage internet users get their information about the world,” Hawley said.

Meanwhile, Rubio said that TikTok was a “hotbed” of pro-Hamas misinformation and indoctrination as well as a place of “brainwashing.”

Since the war between Israel and Hamas, TikTok’s influence has re-emerged in the public sphere along with scrutiny of the dominance of pro-Palestinian content.

Last October, American venture capitalist Jeff Morris Jr accused TikTok of corrupting the younger generation through algorithms by shifting them from being pro-Israel to pro-Palestine.

Through a thread on X (formerly Twitter), Morris Jr expressed his concerns regarding the hashtag #standwithpalestine which is more popular than #standwithisrael. He said the hashtag #standwithpalestine had been viewed three billion times, in contrast to #standwithisrael which only had 200 million views.

“When I watched one of the posts on TikTok that supported Palestine, everyone feeds I became very anti-Israel,” Morris Jr. said, adding that it was as if he was “asked to see the war with Israel as the evil figure.”

Until now, TikTok has not provided any official information regarding the algorithm regarding the war between Israel and Hamas. However, TikTok has previously stated that it is “fighting terrorism” and removing hateful and violent content.

Wounded Palestinians arrive at the al-Shifa hospital, on a truck, following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Oct.  19, 2023. (AP Photo/Abed Khaled)Photo: AP/Abed Khaled
Wounded Palestinians arrive at the al-Shifa hospital, on a truck, following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Abed Khaled)

In a statement, TikTok said it had removed more than 925,000 videos in war zones because they were deemed to “violate policies around violence, hate speech, misinformation and terrorism, including content promoting Hamas.”

According to the same report, publicly visible TikTok user data shows that US users’ interest in the Palestinian cause is overwhelming, although pro-Israel content is also popular on the site.

In the 30 days leading up to November 8, around 6 thousand posts with 55 million views used the hashtag #standwithisrael, while around 13 thousand posts with 37 million views used #standwithpalestine.

Globally, pro-Palestinian content dominates with #freepalestine and #standwithpalestine gaining 11 billion and one billion views respectively.

“TikTok needs to get more serious about content moderation,” Darrell West, a senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Technology Governance at the Brookings Institution, told Al Jazeera.

“Disinformation is spread through videos on their platforms and increases public tension on all sides regarding this issue. Human moderators are needed who check the authenticity of the videos and ensure lies are not spread,” he continued.

In the US, the trend towards pro-Palestinian content appears to reflect a generational shift that has occurred long before the Israel-Hamas war.

In a survey conducted by Pew Research in 2022, 61 percent of Americans aged 18-29 said they viewed Palestinians “very well” or “fairly well,” compared to the national average of 52 percent.

When asked the same question about Israelis, 56 percent of the 18 to 29 year old age group said they viewed them “favorably” compared to an average of 67 percent.

The deputy national director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, said concerns about TikTok were legitimate. However, the prominence of pro-Palestinian content on the platform is not among them.

“It would be hypocritical for politicians to want to limit access to social media platforms because they dare allow people to freely express their support for Palestinian human rights in a way that other social media platforms do not,” Mitchell told Al Jazeera.

“In many cases, young people have also gotten to know the world and receive their news directly through social media, not through the filter of mainstream media,” he added.

“Therefore, if there is a younger generation who has grown up for 10 years and learned about Palestine directly from the victims of these continuous human rights violations, then it is not surprising that people will be more sympathetic to the Palestinian people,” concluded Mitchell.

[Gambas:Video CNBC]

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