- Author, Marianna Spring
- Role, A reporter specialized in checking misinformation on social media
Whether you are young or old, a TikTok MX follower, a supporter of Israel or a supporter of the Palestinians, the updates you receive on social media can contribute to shaping your vision regarding Israel’s war on Gaza.
When I browse video clips on my TikTok account, video recordings start appearing one after another, the first; Four Israeli soldiers are shown dancing with their weapons, and the following: A young woman raises a pro-Palestinian slogan.
Based on what I’ve seen, TikTok’s algorithm determines what kind of content I want to see in subsequent videos. This algorithm works in a similar way to other social media platforms as well, which necessarily means that some users are bombarded with the same increasingly divisive content around Israel and Gaza. This reinforces their existing views and biases.
Without a doubt, what is happening on social media constitutes a factor in influencing public opinion, and its movement from “black phone” screens to protests on the ground or in public debates.
This is what happened in the United Kingdom, where social media contributed to encouraging non-political activists to engage in supportive or oppositional actions and to take sides with one party over the other.
British Liberal Democrat MP Laila Moran, whose mother is Palestinian, told me that she and other politicians are getting an overwhelming influx of messages, including: Young men urging a ceasefire.
It seems that the clips they saw on TikTok and Instagram inflamed the emotions of many and were the cause of this.
The MP, who represents the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency in the United Kingdom, questions the quality of the professional videos and says: “The initial instinct is that you cannot trust that these recordings are spontaneous, as the information they contain is expected to be misleading.”
Conservative MP Andrew Percy, vice-chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, says: “The war has received less engagement from his constituency than other issues,” but adds, “However, most of the content being shared is provocatively anti-Semitic.” “.
Percy did not hide his belief that social media has been a major factor in the expansion of people who use this language, especially since this conflict has been going on for a long time.
How is Tik Tok different?
What gets the most attention on TikTok and with whom?
My TikTok account is constantly peppered with categorically pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian videos, with opposing sides often criticizing each other’s content, and pro-Palestinian content seems to be proving more popular among Generation Z users (individuals born between 1997 and 2012).
Pro-Israel video clips on TikTok that use the hashtag “I stand with Israel” have received more than 240 million views, compared to more than 870 million views for video clips that use the opposite hashtag “I stand with Palestine.” This is similar to other sites that rely on Video recording format that is popular with younger users.
Many of these “videos” have been posted since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, but some date back to before then.
There is a notable discrepancy in what the most popular content supporting either side looks like.
For example, videos posted by Palestinian bloggers on the ground from Gaza, and pro-Palestinian users commenting on the war between Israel and Gaza, elicit the most positive reactions among younger users.
At the same time, the content provided by IDF soldiers appears to be more curated and relevant in order to keep up with popular TikTok trends.
Questions remain about the extent to which either side — whether the Israeli government or Hamas, which runs Gaza — has a hand in encouraging or directing unofficial content.
Hatred and polarization
I tracked down many TikTok users, or what young people call “TikTokers,” to learn more, including an Israeli soldier named Daniel, who appears in a video clip that went viral and garnered about 2.1 million views, accompanied by three other soldiers – They are currently serving with the armed forces – dancing with guns several days after the October 7 attacks.
Since then, Daniel has been posting his clips on TikTok, each with more than 10,000 views, but none of them have reached the level of the “Gun Dance” video.
It is difficult to predict how popular a video will be on TikTok.
The continued decline in the number of views may indicate that users are no longer as receptive to such videos as before, especially with the increase in violence in Gaza, and as a result such videos are not widely recommended.
It is also worth noting that the large number of views does not necessarily mean that the recipients’ reactions to it were positive, as some of them spread due to the criticism directed at them and then expand on a larger scale, and TikTok users often “like” the posts, where they repost video clip, after merging their visuals with the original clip side by side.
This is what I noticed in some of Daniel’s content, whether in the reposted stories, or in the comments under his posts. People were pointing out that his dancing videos do not respect the civilians being killed in Gaza. One user described his post as “rude,” while he said Another: “Your cruelty is increasing more and more in the eyes of the world.”
Daniel told me that reactions to his content were divided between “supportive users” and those who shared the hate, and sometimes; Anti-Semitic abuse. Offensive comments on videos and other posts about Israel included comments by Hamas supporters claiming that the hostages kidnapped on October 7 were paid actors or were killed by Israeli forces.
Daniel comments on this: “I am not concerned about hate reactions, because first of all I did nothing wrong, and secondly, there is widespread hatred in the world for Israel, so it does not matter what accompanies the content that I publish.”
In a recent meeting with TikTok executives, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen accused the site of “embracing the largest anti-Semitic movement since the Nazis.” Cohen is not the only Jewish celebrity to express concerns about this, after the October 7 attacks. .
In a recent post on the app, TikTok denied that its algorithm and recommendations were biased, saying, “We have strict measures in place to prevent manipulation.”
The social media site also told us that from October 7 to November 17, it deleted more than 1.1 million clips in the conflict zone for violating its guidelines “including content promoting Hamas, hate speech, terrorism, and misinformation.”
Through its guidelines, TikTok prohibits content that promotes Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, and it takes action against accounts that do so, according to TikTok’s statements.
When I look at pro-Palestinian content, I find that some videos have a different style.
Ariana, who shares videos about the war from her home in the United States, often speaks directly into the camera in her bedroom, expressing her opinion on celebrities’ war-related posts or photos describing the situation in Gaza.
Ariana tells me that when she began publishing about Palestine for the first time after October 7, she noticed a decrease in the number of views of her clips, as well as in the number of her followers, as Israel’s supporters criticized her content.
As time passed, and she continued to share topics that “exposed Israeli propaganda,” Ariana says: “The following weeks witnessed an increase in interaction, and people began to discover me.”
She says that, more often than not, she “receives a lot of support” online, especially from people who “feel like they don’t trust traditional media.”
But Ariana has also suffered from anti-Islamic hate, not only on TikTok, but also on Instagram and other social media platforms.
Both Daniel and Ariana deny that their published content was sponsored by any party, whether political or otherwise.
Osama bin Laden’s message
Focusing on content that influences users on a daily basis to confirm a particular narrative, makes it easy to imagine how ideas can become more extreme, and how this content can gain more attention.
Such a thing already happened on TikTok, when many young users began promoting the letter written by Osama bin Laden in 2002 under the title “Message to America”, which he wrote to justify the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 people in the United States.
This letter explains bin Laden’s point of view and presents in the same context the alternative point of view about the United States’ involvement in the Middle East conflicts, without its publishers noting the anti-Semitic and anti-gay statements the letter contained.
TikTok said that the number of people interacting with the message was small until it was published on the X website, “formerly Twitter,” to increase the number of people interested in it. Since then, TikTok has removed the videos related to it and blocked the message from search tools.
The picture is different on traditional platforms such as “X”
The platform has been accused of enabling violent, hateful and misleading content, and its new owner, Elon Musk, has been criticized for his response to posts promoting anti-Semitic theories.
Musk has since insisted that he is not anti-Semitic, in conjunction with statements to “X” defending its approach to harmful content.
X has traditionally been a popular platform with politicians and journalists, unlike TikTok, and it appears that pro-Israel content still has a greater reach on X than on TikTok.
Curated content, including emotional videos of hostages taken by Hamas, shared by the State of Israel account received a significant number of views, according to X data. For example, between November 16 and 21, the aforementioned account had more than 40 million views on the platform.
In comparison, the official account on
The X platform was not free of misinformation either, and I found evidence of that.
In October, a State of Israel account posted false claims that the body of a 4-year-old Palestinian child killed by Israeli raids was just a doll. A spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in the UK did not comment directly on these social media posts or on the circumstances of the child’s death. .
Likewise, in accounts supporting Hamas, false allegations were published, but in the absence of official accounts for the movement, it seems that these lies have been exposed in a more widespread way online.
Take, for example, comments suggesting that another four-year-old boy, an Israeli, who was killed when Hamas attacked his home, was a “paid actor.”
How were two 4-year-old children killed and social media denied it?
The “Meta” network – which owns Facebook and Instagram – also did not escape pressure, amid allegations accusing it of excessive moderation of content about the war.
For example, an Instagram account with more than six million followers called Eye on Palestine, which posts photos and videos showing violence against civilians in Gaza during Israeli airstrikes, was suspended by the platform for several days.
Meta later said this was “for security reasons after violating its rules.”
Several users who share pro-Palestine content on Instagram protested after they said their accounts had been blocked from adding comments on posts, without a clear indication of why.