ISIS is reportedly using popular Gen Z app TikTok as its newest recruitment tool


FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen on a mobile phone screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration/File Photo

  • TikTok has removed about two-dozen accounts that posted Islamic State propaganda, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • The short-form video app has thousands of moderators in China and the US.
  • The platform has been accused of going too far in removing sensitive content, allegedly censoring controversial posts that could anger China.
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Short-form video platform TikTok has removed two-dozen accounts for posting propaganda for the Islamic State, Georgia Wells at The Wall Street Journal reported.

Videos featuring ISIS fighters with guns, corpses, and Islamic State songs were posted to the app, according to the Journal. Some of the videos reportedly targeted potential future fighters, with shots glorifying militants set to ISIS songs. Others seemed to target young girls, reportedly using the term “jihad lover,” and women calling themselves “jihadist and proud.” The videos also used TikTok’s in-app features, like filters and hearts.

Promoting terrorism is specifically banned under TikTok’s community policy, which states that terrorist organizations and any other criminal organizations are banned from using TikTok. 

A TikTok spokesperson told Business Insider: “Content promoting terrorist organizations has absolutely no place on TikTok. We permanently ban any such accounts and associated devices as soon as identified, and we continuously develop ever-stronger controls to proactively detect suspicious activity. 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 behavior on TikTok.”

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The Islamic State has recruited members through social media since the group’s infancy, which has caused trouble for other tech companies like Facebook as it tries to delete content that promotes violence, in accordance with its community standards. TikTok now has thousands of content moderators in China and the US, according to the Journal.

While other tech companies like Facebook have been criticized for not removing terrorist content — like footage from the Christchurch shooting — quickly enough, TikTok has reportedly been too quick to censor videos, especially those dealing with topics that might anger the Chinese government.

Earlier this month, TikTok hired a US law firm, including two former lawmakers, to help it revise content moderation policies. The Guardian reported in September on internal documents from Chinese parent company ByteDance instructing moderators to censor content about controversial topics likely to upset the Chinese government, like Tiananmen Square and Tibetan independence. Sen. Marco Rubio has since asked the federal government to investigate the company for censoring content at China’s request.

TikTok has wide reach as a propaganda tool. Parent company ByteDance is the highest-valued private company in the world, and in September, TikTok was the top free non-gaming app. One-third of the app’s users are under 18, the Journal reported.

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