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TikTok to prohibit videos promoting bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’

Tiktok Logo Photo Credit: Allen West Tiktok Logo Photo Credit: Allen West
Tiktok Logo Photo Credit: Allen West Tiktok Logo Photo Credit: Allen West

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The short-form video app TikTok said on Thursday that it will block anything that supports Osama bin Laden’s 2002 letter explaining the former al Qaeda leader’s arguments for attacks against Americans. The letter details Osama bin Laden’s justifications for attacks against Americans.

This week, in the backdrop of debate about the war between Israel and Hamas, discussions of the letter that was written 20 years ago have spread throughout the platform. Some users in the West have praised the contents of the letter.

The letter, which was written after the attack on the United States that was carried out by al Qaeda and which resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 people, featured antisemitic remarks, denounced the assistance that the United States provides for Israel, and accused Americans of sponsoring “oppression” of Palestinians.

A special operations team from the United States military tracked down and executed Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.

TikTok stated that “content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism,” adding that rumors that it was “trending” on the platform were untrue.

On Thursday, a search on TikTok for “Letter to America” yielded no results and a message that suggested the word may be related to “content that violates our guidelines.”

Before Thursday’s announcement, several United States senators had already expressed their continued opposition to the Chinese government-controlled app and called for its outright prohibition.

On Wednesday, Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer claimed that X, which formerly went by the name Twitter, was “pushing pro-terrorist propaganda to influence Americans.”

In a statement released on Thursday, the spokesperson for the White House, Andrew Bates, said: “There is never a justification for spreading the repugnant, evil, and antisemitic lies that the leader of al Qaeda issued just after committing the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States.”

On Wednesday, The Guardian removed the entire text of the letter to bin Laden published in 2002. The news organization stated on its website that the letter was being shared on social media without the whole context. Instead, it would send readers to the news piece initially reported on the note. This statement was made in response to the fact that the letter was circulated on social media without the whole context.

TikTok has stated that its recommendation system does not promote specific material to its viewers. Additionally, the firm has indicated that it has deleted hundreds of thousands of videos since October 7 for breaking its regulations against the encouragement of violence and the dissemination of false information.

According to Renee DiResta, a research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory, it isn’t easy to completely grasp how widespread specific content is on TikTok. This is partially because external researchers have restricted access to the platform’s data.

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