TikTok’s algorithms have come under scrutiny, with people implying that it amplifies content about the Israel-Hamas war. Further claims suggest that TikTok is even taking sides, which the latter is not happy with. To counter the claims, TikTok released a 1,300-word overview that explains why its systems do not exhibit bias. Long story short, here is their verdict – TikTok does not fuel Israel-Hamas partisan trends.
The notion was suggested by several U.S. senators, who have also revived their calls to ban the app. U.S. senators seem to believe that TikTok’s algorithms amplify anti-Israel and anti-Jewish content. In a rebuttal, TikTok’s full summary includes insights into why some trending Hashtags are based on user activity vs. the algorithm.
Sorry To Break It To You
According to TikTok:
“It’s critical to understand that hashtags on the platform are created and added to videos by content creators, not TikTok. Millions of people in regions such as the Middle East and Southeast Asia account for a significant proportion of views on hashtags. Therefore, there’s more content with #freepalestine and #standwithpalestine and more overall views. It is easy to cherry-pick hashtags to support a false narrative about the platform.”
TikTok notes that similar trends exist on Instagram and other social platforms. At the same time, TikTok denies the idea that it works to influence the popularity of trends. For the most part, TikTok emphasizes that its algorithms are based on user activity and interests.
“The content people see on TikTok is generated by our community, and recommendations are based on the content people have previously engaged with. TikTok does not “promote” one side of an issue over another. In the U.S., we have given our third-party Trusted Technology Provider access to the TikTok source code to understand if the system is acting as TikTok intends. We are on a path to allowing an unprecedented amount of third-party access to verify our source code and systems, something no other peer company has done.”
The view is that taking sides in geopolitical incidents could point to hidden ulterior motives. TikTok understands that such notions will significantly impact its growth and operations, hence its keenness to respond. However, while TikTok heavily refutes the idea, it is also not a radical suggestion. In China, the CCP holds significant sway over the content that trends on Douyin (Chinese TikTok). In a way, it does suggest that TikTok could be a vehicle for similar suppression or amplification.
There is no evidence to suggest that this is happening outside of China. Despite that, it remains a concern, especially for U.S. security officials who surmise that TikTok is a masked surveillance tool. Even without solid evidence backing up that claim, in combination, TikTok remains a big question mark for U.S. authorities.
Nevertheless, TikTok defends its actions, noting that it now runs a “Command Center” to combat misinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“We also added more moderators who speak Arabic and Hebrewto review content related to the war. Between October 7 and October 31, 2023, TikTok removed more than 925,000 videos in the conflict region for violating our policies around violence, hate speech, misinformation, and terrorism, including content promoting Hamas.”
With the stakes higher than ever, it makes sense for TikTok to immediately jump on the counterattack. While the integrity of the app remains in question, its defense stands equally firm – TikTok does not fuel Israel-Hamas partisan trends.