TikTok – one of the biggest social media rages in recent years fuelled by China, has now removed two dozen accounts that were posting propaganda from the Islamic State (ISIS) in an effort to appeal to young people, reports the Wall Street Journal.
According to the reports, the Islamic State (ISIS) propagandists are reportedly trying to exploit social media app TikTok as a recruiting tool. Storyful – a social media monitoring agency has recently identified around two dozen ISIS-related accounts, which have been removed from TikTok application.
The accounts which indulged in Islamic terror propaganda by posting videos such as Islamic State anthems and footage of corpses and ISIS fighters. The videos were aimed at recruiting followers and reinforcing support for the terrorist group.
“We pledge allegiance ’til death,” voices sang in Arabic in one of the videos, which may have been posted in recent weeks.
Currently, there is not enough information regarding the nature of presence ISIS and its terrorists on TikTok. The usage of social media platforms to propagate Islamic terrorist ideology has become a perennial issue. Islamic State has focused on online propaganda since its inception, including using social media to spread its message, making it distinct from other jihadist groups.
The postings on TikTok followed after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had released a message last month in which he called on his followers to redouble their efforts to further the cause after losing control over the last of its self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq earlier this year.
Reportedly, tech giants like Facebook and Google share a database of known terrorist imagery that can be automatically removed when it’s detected online. These companies have also won several lawsuits for allowing it even temporarily on their platforms. In September, Facebook had said that it removed more than 26 million pieces of global terrorist propaganda over the past two years.
After banning pro-ISIS accounts, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how much terrorist content TikTok finds and takes down.
Reportedly, the accounts that Storyful had identified also appear to be relatively small. The Journal identifies that some videos had 68 likes while some accounts had as much as 1,000 followers. However, Storyful did not immediately confirm whether that is typical of the accounts’ popularity, or whether these are the first accounts they’ve found on TikTok.
TikTok has rules against terrorist organizations using the app, but even its team of content moderators across the US and China and advanced algorithms could not detect the ISIS accounts until the WSJ flagged them. TikTok videos circulate largely because of TikTok’s recommendation algorithm. In this case, however, it was not clear that the algorithm is promoting ISIS content, just that this content exists on the hugely popular platform.
The Journal notes that TikTok has a young user base and is known for lighthearted, jokey content. So there exists an added discrepancy when it’s used by terrorist organisations. The videos posted by these propagandists were edited to appeal to young people, using flower icons, hearts and catchy music.
In an email, TikTok spokesperson stated, “This is an industry-wide challenge complicated by bad actors who actively seek to circumvent protective measures, but we have a team dedicated to aggressively protecting against malicious behaviour on TikTok.”
Recently, we witnessed the manner in which some TikTok ‘celebrities’ incited violence following the death of the thief Tabrez Ansari. The country witnessed significant violence following the incident and it’s unclear still the extent to which TikTok contributed to it. The Chinese hold on TikTok and their control over data that is uploaded on the app also cannot be ignored.