Alarmed by an apparent increase in anti-Semitic content and misinformation on Tik Tok Following the terrorist massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas on October 7, a group of Jewish celebrities and influencers met with video app executives this week to express their concerns.
More than 30 people joined the 90-minute video call, including actors Sacha Baron Cohen, Amy Schumer and Debra Messingby invitation of TikTok. Variety has confirmed the details of the November 15 meeting, first reported by the New York Times.
Overall, the tone of the meeting was respectful and productive, according to a person familiar with the meeting. But at times the discussion became very heated.
“What is happening on TikTok is that it is creating the largest anti-Semitic movement since the Nazis. What a shame,” Cohen told executives, according to audio of the meeting. He also said: “If you think about October 7, the reason Hamas was able to behead young men and rape women was because they were fed images of when they were little children that led them to hatred.”
Messing questioned why TikTok is not blocking the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which many interpret as a dog whistle calling for the extermination of Israel, on the app. “It’s much more responsible to ban it right now than to say, ‘Oh, well, some people use it in a different way than what it really meant,’” Messing said. “I understand that you are in a very, very difficult and complicated situation, but you are also the main platform for the spread of hatred of Jews.”
On the call, TikTok COO Adam Presser acknowledged to participants: “We can do better.” He also said: “To hear that this place, this platform, this community that has brought so much joy and helped each of you as individuals is becoming a place that feels like a place that you are not sure of.” want to spend time … that is devastating.”
Representatives for TikTok, owned by Chinese internet conglomerate ByteDance, did not respond to a request for comment on the call.
The meeting came after a group of 43 Jewish celebrities and influencers, including Schumer and Messing, posted a open letter to TikTok about the issues earlier this month. “Dear TikTok: Your platform is not safe for Jewish users,” she reads. “Simply put, TikTok lacks critical safety features to protect Jewish content creators and the Jewish TikTok community at large, leaving us in physical and digital danger. The company and its thousands of employees in public policy, creator partnerships, product development and content moderation, who are supposed to protect users, are not doing enough.”
Meanwhile, TikTok has come under fire after videos promoting Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America,” a tirade about the terrorist attacks he orchestrated against the United States on September 11, 2001, were viewed millions of times on the platform. In response, TikTok said it blocked the “#LettertoAmerica” hashtag and was “aggressively removing” videos about the bin Laden letter, while stating that the number of videos was “small” and that “reports of trends in our platform are inaccurate.” TikTok also said content about bin Laden’s letter appeared “across multiple platforms and media.”
Earlier this week, TikTok wrote in a blog post who is “responding quickly and vigorously to the War between Israel and Hamas” and said, “In light of the misinformation and mischaracterization about how the TikTok platform really works, it is important for everyone to know the facts.”
According to TikTok, the number of videos associated with a hashtag alone “does not provide enough context.” For example, it said, the hashtag #standwithIsrael may be associated with fewer videos than #freePalestine but the former has 68% more views per video in the U.S. Additionally, “the content people see on TikTok is generated by our community and our recommendations.” They are based on content that people have previously interacted with,” the company said in the blog post. “TikTok does not ‘promote’ one side of an issue over another.”
TikTok has also stepped up its efforts to remove fake accounts and engagement. Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel, TikTok has removed more than 24 million fake accounts worldwide and more than 500,000 “bot comments” on content under conflict-related hashtags, according to the company. .
In 2022, TikTok said, it removed 100% of anti-Semitic or Holocaust denial content reported through its community partner channel. The company claims it removes approximately 90% of hate speech before it is reported.
“We recognize that when it comes to platform security, there is always more to do, and as we learn more, we do more,” TikTok said. “We welcome honest and open dialogue in all of these areas, and will continue to engage with our community, civil society, nonprofit organizations and others to protect our community and remain a welcoming space for authentic self-expression.”
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