After National Outrage, TikTok Is ‘Aggressively’ Scrubbing Viral Videos Sympathizing With Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’
The TikTok craze comes as new data show the number of adults regularly getting news from the app has quadrupled since 2020.
After national backlash, video sharing app TikTok is trying to scrub a wave of viral videos sympathizing with Osama bin Laden’s rationale for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
TikTok is also claiming that the posts are not trending, despite the videos generating 13.9 million views, Forbes reports.
“Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism,” TikTok says on X. “We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform,” adding that reports of the videos “trending on our platform are inaccurate.”
Yet, throughout Wednesday and Thursday a surge of TikTokers were going viral for reading and sympathizing with a “Letter to America,” written by Osama bin Laden.
The letter, which had been posted to the Guardian and was removed following the viral TikTok videos, is filled with antisemitism and homophobia.
“The transcript published on our website had been widely shared on social media without the full context,” the Guardian said Thursday. “Therefore we decided to take it down and direct readers instead to the news article that originally contextualized it.”
The videos sparked a wave of support — and outrage — across the social media platform, where new Pew Research Center data released Wednesday indicates nearly a third of adults under 30 regularly get their news. The number of U.S. adults who regularly get news from TikTok has quadrupled in the last three years, Pew reports.
Senator Rubio, who has been vocal in his criticism of TikTok for pushing pro-Hamas content, on Thursday condemned the trending TikTok videos on X.
“Now trending on social media (especially TikTok) people saying that after reading Bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America,’ they now understand terrorism is a legitimate method of resistance against ‘oppression’ and America deserved to be attacked of 9/11,” Mr. Rubio wrote.
Bin Laden’s letter, according to a cached copy of the letter on the Guardian website, states that America is “the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind,” and argues that America’s support for Israel was one of the reasons behind the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 civilians.
In the letter, reportedly issued as a call to arms to terrorists in the West, Al Qaeda’s chief explained to Americans: “Why are we fighting and opposing you?”
The “answer is very simple,” bin Laden wrote. It was “because you attacked us and continue to attack us,” particularly “in Palestine.” The terrorist chief explained that the “British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years.”
Bin Laden adds that the “creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals,” calling “the creation of Israel” a “crime which must be erased.”
Following its publication in 2002, the Guardian reported, the letter was posted to Islamist extremist websites that also offered “bomb-making information” and links to information on “chemical and biological weapons.”
The TikTok spiral began with influencer Lynette Adkins posting a since-deleted video urging her followers to “go read a ‘Letter to America.’”
Her TikTok, which had already been viewed almost 1 million times by Thursday morning, now says “it is no longer available.” The video had quickly filled with comments from fellow sympathizers. “My eyes have been opened,” one user responded. “Over 20 years ago and yet everything stated is still prevalent,” another commenter said.
Many commenters said they had started to question American education and “I feel like everything I’ve ever learned regarding American history is a lie I’m freaking out…” as another comment read.
Other users pushed back. “It is beyond disgusting how many people are openly taking the side of terrorists. Never thought I’d see the day in America where bin Laden is a hero,” one commenter said.
The viral videos are the latest salvo in the TikTok information war, which has stirred pushback and calls for bans due to the app’s ties with China and surging anti-Israel content, as the Sun has reported.
The latest analytics from TikTok’s Creative Center, which is used by content creators to find what’s trending to help boost videos, says videos labeled #freepalestine and #standwithpalestine are “likely to trend within the next 7 days.”
While #freepalestine has a total of 26 billion views and #standwithpalestine has a total of 4 billion views, #standwithIsrael has 463 million views, TikTok’s analytics show.
Bin Laden’s letter says terrorists are fighting America because its military bases “corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews.”
The letter also calls on Americans to stop the “debauchery that has spread among you,” by rejecting “immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling’s, and trading with interest.”
“Go ahead and boast to the nations of man, that you brought them AIDS as a Satanic American Intervention,” the letter reads.
Other videos on Ms. Adkin’s account say that if her followers have read bin Laden’s “Letter to America” they’re probably “waking up,” to how Americans have been manipulated over time.
“The Guardian taking that post down is actually one of the worst things that I feel like they could have done, I don’t know who was behind it or like what the reasoning was but I feel like it literally just confirmed everything that we read in that letter,” she says, adding that the media is trying to censor it.