TIKTOK has been blasted as a breeding ground for hate after a rant by Osama Bin Laden went viral and the app was accused of allowing rampant anti-Semitism.
The popular social media site – which has some 1.8billion users worldwide – is facing urgent calls to tackle the alarming spread of vile content, especially in the wake of the war in Gaza.
Experts told The Sun Online the site needs to do more to tackle hateful content – and warned it is being used by “sinister actors” to stoke up division and hate.
They demanded the company ensure its algorithm is not feeding up hateful content to young, impressionable users.
And they warned of potentially dangerous real-world consequences if more action is not taken by TikTok.
Professor Anthony Glees, a security expert from the University of Buckingham, told The Sun Online: “Everybody knows that TikTok appeals especially to young minds.
“So it’s not only what’s going on right now, it’s planting those seeds in impressionable young [people].
“They grow into something in the years to come.”
Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of policy think tank Henry Jackson Society, told The Sun: “TikTok has a long history of allowing hatred to be promoted on its platform, and does little to censor hate speech of this kind.”
The app has always insisted it works proactively in tackling hate speech, and in a statement told The Sun they are committed to “doing our part” to defeat anti-Semitism.
TikTok has been blasted this week after a sick letter written by Osama bin Laden justifying the 9/11 attacks was allowed to go viral.
It was viewed millions of times before being finally stopped and users banned.
And then it was revealed top actor Sacha Baron Cohen led a chorus of Jewish celebrity voices in calling for the company to do more on anti-Semitism.
Baron Cohen fired a fierce shot across the tech company’s bow as he met with them – accusing them of “creating the biggest anti-Semitic movement since the Nazis”.
And meanwhile, TikTok user Gidon Lev – an 88-year-old holocaust survivor who used his account with 459k followers to warn about anti-Semitism – says he has been driven off the app by hate.
Professor Glees warned the level of hate being spread on the app is a “very serious” threat and warned it is being manipulated for “political reasons”.
He said hate speech – many examples of which were highlighted by Baron Cohen and the other celebs in the call with TikTok – “play directly into the history of the last century”.
The expert explained: “These old tropes, which were never dead, are being reawakened by sinister manipulators on TikTok.”
Social media, Glees says, is a major factor in the spread of anti-Semitism.
And while he thinks platforms like TikTok – but also Instagram and Facebook – have good rules, they “don’t practice them”.
Dave Rich, head of policy at Community Security Trust, spoke to The Sun about his work in the charity’s efforts to monitor anti-Semitism online and offline.
He claimed that teenagers on the app are “seeing stuff to do with Jews or Israel, recommended by the algorithm, that’s anti-Semitic”, coming up on their For You page.
Dave said the sick trend where users discuss bin Laden’s letter, which is full of “very anti-Semitic content”, is concerning.
And he worries this might even have made young people think the terrorist leader is “someone worth listening to”.
Rich said that if TikTok bosses are “not aware” of the extent of anti-Semitism on the app, “then frankly that’s a disgrace”.
Zoe Cairns, a social media expert, said the huge influx of content on an app like TikTok makes it tricky to monitor everything.
“Until TikTok’s got something set up to filter these comments and actions are put in place to stop that from happening, the app is going to keep allowing that content to come out.
“If that content doesn’t get flagged and doesn’t get the engagement that’s required, what will happen is that will be lost amongst all the other noise that’s going on,” she told The Sun.
Ms Cairns did say the more people who report it, the easier it is for the company to take action.
“As celebrities and individuals, what we can do from our end is that we need to make sure that we report it.
“The more people that report it, the better then that it will be picked up by TikTok to do something about it.”
TikTok is owned by Chinese technology company ByteDance Ltd – and has long-faced scrutiny over its possible links to the Communist regime.
It is banned on government phones in the UK due to security and spying fears.
And there is currently a call for a national ban in the US.
Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley reiterated the demand for the ban following the Bin Laden letter’s spread on the app.
“This is a prime example of how our foreign enemies poison social media to advance their evil agenda,” she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
TikTok has regularly and strongly denied any links to the Chinese Communist Party.
Dr Mendoza said he believes the app should be “restricted” in the West pending further investigation.
Baron Cohen was joined by comedian Amy Schumer and actress Debra Messing when they confronted TikTok execs about the spread of anti-Semitism.
“If you think back to October 7, the reason why Hamas were able to behead young people and rape women was they were fed images from when they were small kids that led them to hate,” he said on the call with execs, according to the New York Times.
He accused the app of platforming similarly influential and provocative content to young people.
And raged that TikTok “is creating the biggest anti-Semitic movement since the Nazis”.
Head of TikTok operations Adam Presser and global head of user operations Seth Melnick wanted to hear specifics about the experiences of those on the call in hopes of improving the platform.
Baron Cohen highlighted the circulation of violent images on the platform and said that TikTok has the power to “flip a switch” in tackling anti-Semitism.
But Presser claimed there was no “magic button” to fix the concerns raised in the meeting.
Both chief executives, also Jewish, were described by the New York Times as “conciliatory” in the meeting.
A TikTok spokeswoman told The Sun: “We oppose anti-Semitism in all forms.
“Anti-Semitism is on the rise globally, and we’re committed to doing our part to fight it.
“We’ve taken important steps to protect our community and prevent the spread of hate, and we appreciate ongoing, honest dialogue and feedback as we continually work to strengthen these protections.”