TikTok removes hashtag for bin Laden’s “Letter to America”

November 17, 2023

TikTok said Friday it has removed the hashtag #lettertoamerica from its search function after videos of Usama bin Laden from 2002 went viral on the social media platform.

The videos were also re-uploaded to X, formerly Twitter. 

Some social media users had suggested—even backed the idea—that the founder of al Qaeda and the instigator of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S. in 2001 gave an alternate perspective on the United States’ involvement in the Middle East.

The social media push came after a two-decades-old posting of a transcript of the terror leader’s 2002 letter was uploaded from The Guardian. The UK-based newspaper withdrew the letter’s posting from its website on Wednesday.

The hashtag on TikTok drew fury from politicians, celebrities and social media influencers.

“What is happening at TikTok is it is creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis,” said actor and filmmaker Sacha Baron Cohen during a meeting with TikTok executives Wednesday. 

He and others urged the video sharing platform to do more to address a surge of antisemitism and harassment on its site. 

On Thursday, Nikki Haley (R), former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations who is running for President in 2024, called for a national TikTok ban over the videos promoting bin Laden’s justification for the 9/11 massacre. 

“I have long said that we have to ban TikTok,” Haley said on Fox News Radio.

“They are posting letters of Usama bin Laden’s letter, the week after the 9/11 attack, and it is the justification for why he did it,” Haley went on. “And so you have a lot of our kids sitting there siding with that, that—‘Oh, America deserved it at that time.’”

TikTok spokesperson Ben Rathe said in an email to NBC News that videos featuring bin Laden’s letter violate the site’s rules against supporting any form of terrorism. 

“We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform,” Rathe wrote. “The number of videos on TikTok is small and reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate. This is not unique to TikTok and has appeared across multiple platforms and the media.”

TikTok reportedly has more than 1 billion monthly active users in more than 150 countries worldwide, including a reported 150 million users in the U.S.

According to Pew Research, 67% of U.S. 13 to 17-year olds (born more than a decade after 9/11) use TikTok, with 16% of those teens saying they use the app almost constantly.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

 

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