The Islamic State Terrorist Organisation (ISIS) has turned to TikTok to spread its propaganda and find recruits. The social media app, TikTok mainly used for creating short videos recently identified two dozen ISIS-related accounts. The app is really popular among teens, hence the Islamic militants in an attempt to recruit young people started to post short propaganda videos.
Storyful- an agency that monitors social media removed these accounts from TikTok. These accounts posted videos that featured the Islamic State anthems and corpses parading the streets. It also showed the Islamic State fighters proudly showcasing their guns and women proclaiming to be a “proud jihadist” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The IS videos approximately uploaded from two dozen accounts which were reportedly removed and the accounts deleted permanently by TikTok. TikTok stated that content promoting terrorist propaganda has absolutely no place on its platform. They also ban accounts and devices that are linked to such suspicious activity. A TikTok spokesperson also said that they have a team dedicated to monitoring and protecting everyone from malicious content.
Promoting ISIS propaganda is against the company’s rules; it strictly warns that terrorist organizations are banned from using this app and the users are strictly prohibited from using TikTok to promote terrorist ideologies. Although the accounts that were removed did not have much popularity yet a few of them did manage to attract 1000 followers and one particular video even had 68 likes, which is a bit concerning. Another worrying aspect is that TikTok only removed these videos after it was flagged as inappropriate by the Wall Street Journal.
TikTok users are primarily young people and ISIS would want to target them because they are quite impressionable, hence they prefer to appeal to them. In fact, a few particular accounts targeted young women by showcasing young handsome men and running horses in their videos to promote their agenda. The recommendation algorithm is what that promotes the videos of TikTok and it is not clear if it promotes the ISIS content just because the content is present on a largely popular platform.
We don’t have an exact picture of how big a presence ISIS has on TikTok. But social media platforms have always faced problems with terrorist propagandas. Extremist organizations like the Islamic State to name one, have always used social media to promote their ideas. In fact, Google reviewed close to a million YouTube videos for suspicious content at the beginning of 2019. Large tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft have agreed to share a database of known terrorist images and videos that promote terrorism so that it could be removed immediately and control the spread of terrorism online.
In September, Facebook stated that they removed over 26 million fragments of terrorist propaganda globally. TikTok has been removing restrictions from its platform since its popularity shot up. It recently removed the shadow ban on content that promotes Donald Trump. It also removed the censorship in certain parts of the world that were sensitive to content related to the LGBTQ community or anything that criticized the Chinese government even though the app is owned by a Chinese company called Byte Dance.