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piqd | The TikTok Intifada

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The Anne Frank educational institution has published a “TikTok report on the Middle East conflict” that summarizes and analyzes the research on the so-called “TikTok Intifada” after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 and the consequences online. The report not only collects international developments such as the renewed accusations made in November of being a repository for anti-Semitism, which was preceded by a report from the Anti Defamation League on anti-Semitism on TikTok in 2021, but also supplements these with findings for German-speaking countries own surveys and research.

In October 2023, the platform had “20.9 million active users in Germany and 2.1 million in Austria”, and every fourth person in Germany and Austria is a TikTok user. “Almost a fifth of 14 to 29 year olds in Germany use Tiktok daily, and almost a third every week.”

The platform is “almost absent” from public discourse: “Decisive political actors in the democratic spectrum, central institutions, organizations and associations do not yet have a TikTok account. Only the major news media are investing in TikTok: However, their reach is limited to them of established creators is “deplorably low”.

However, right-wing forces are not only present on the platform, but by far have the widest reach. Political consultant Johannes Hillje examined the reach of the AFD on TikTok and the numbers are clear: “TikTok videos from the official channel of the AfD parliamentary group, for example, achieved an average of 430,000 impressions per video between January 2022 and December 2023. The FDP had around 53,000, the remaining parties were even further behind.”

Of the party’s (AFD) 80 members of the Bundestag, more than a third have their own account – some with millions of views. Racist, sexist and anti-queer influencers from the “lateral thinking” environment, the “Identitarian Movement” or other groups spread their content almost uninhibitedly. But Islamist influencers also direct their messages to an audience of millions. Immediately after October 7th, the Islamist preacher Pierre Vogel, who had already largely been forgotten in the media, achieved nationwide reach with live streams.

The Anne Frank educational institution sums up: “While right-wing radicals use the medium confidently, decisively and with hegemonic claims, the defenders of democracy do not even wage a solid rearguard action” and “While the medium shapes the world knowledge of an entire generation, it is publicly negotiated as any mobile game.”

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Right-wing forces are using the new anti-Semitism on TikTok, which has been spreading since 2021 as the “TikTok Intifada” and has “increased exponentially” since October 7th, as a gateway. A study by the University of Haifa showed back then that anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial accounted for the largest proportion of extremist posts. A narrative biotope full of right-wing radical stories in which lateral thinkers, Nazis and conspiracy theorists clearly feel at home.

Just a few days ago, a debate broke out about the high-reach podcast “Hoss und Hopf”, which is very successful on TikTok and especially among kids and spreads AfD slogans among young people. The channel was suspended from the platform yesterday “for (spreading) conspiracy myths and misinformation,” but it is just the tip of a huge iceberg.

The EU warned the platform in October for spreading disinformation. TikTok has a “special responsibility” towards children and young people, said Digital Commissioner Breton.

The report from the Anne Frank educational institution contains quotes from numerous anti-Semitic statements made by students. 11-year-old students claim that “the German media is not allowed to formulate news that is critical of Israel” and say that they find it “a shame if Palestinian children die, but the Jews don’t matter.” A 14-year-old student said to a teacher: “If you were Jewish, I would stab you right there and then, because that’s what Jews deserve.”

A year and a half ago, I wrote here on Piqd how TikTok was the source of most viral online phenomena, replacing Twitter as the primary meme slinger. This virality is now being used specifically by anti-Semites to spread their hatred of Jews, especially among young people. With success, as such quotes clearly show.

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The report concludes with options for action and advice for teachers and politicians. Among other things, it calls for strengthening media literacy through a separate school subject, which I would definitely like to join in and ends this link to a startling, frightening report with a quote from TikTok creator Rafid Kabir:

Since the horrific attack on October 7th, the amount of anti-Semitic narratives on TikTok has increased exponentially. Instead of solidarity with the victims, there are tons of videos with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and expressions of sympathy for Hamas. It can’t be the case that a platform as relevant as TikTok is dominated by such one-sided narratives that even creators no longer dare to make classifying videos and explain them about it! There is little support for creators and counter-offers on the platform, leaving the people already consuming information on the platform alone with the disinformation.”
(Rafid Kabir, Creator @itsruffydk)

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