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What does TikTok have to do with the war in Gaza?

The social network is more than ever engaged to socio-political issues

What does TikTok have to do with the war in Gaza?  The social network is more than ever engaged to socio-political issues

While Israel almost no longer allows foreign journalists to access the Gaza Strip, information about the ongoing conflict comes almost exclusively through the two news agencies still active in the territory (Afp and Reuters), or through the channels of humanitarian organizations and the United Nations. In this context, social networks have become essential for opening a window onto the war between Israel and Palestine, which since last October 7 continues to be the most commented topic in the world on social networks. This despite numerous reports of shadow-ban that have emerged in recent months. In particular, on Instagram many users – but especially activists, journalists, and other people following the war in Gaza – had already reported that their content on the ongoing conflict systematically gets fewer interactions than usual. The problem had already arisen in April 2022, at a time when violence between Israel and Palestine had increased. In that case, various well-followed profiles, including that of Bella Hadid and Palestinian YouTuber Adnan Barq, had pointed out that every time they posted content talking about Palestine, views significantly decreased. New York Times journalist Azmat Khan also stated she suspected she had been penalized after talking about Gaza in her Stories.

Meta and shadow-banning

@misbah_rose #freepalestine # #gaza original sound - kurd

Meta has very stringent guidelines regarding what it considers “terrorism”: in times when numerous war-themed – thus potentially sensitive – contents circulate, it seems that the automatic moderation systems tend to apply restrictions less transparently and more indiscriminately, resulting in what is precisely defined as shadow-banning. The practice, about which few details are known, is supposed to involve content that does not openly violate guidelines but still lies on the edge of what is allowed to be disseminated. In addition to experiencing a sharp drop in views, in some cases, the profile of users subjected to shadow-banning becomes very difficult to find. This is why more and more people have started to write the most “problematic” terms differently, such as “Pal3stin4” or “G4z4”, or to use the watermelon emoji. Faced with the fear of this type of restrictions on pro-Palestinian content, many people have chosen to talk about the conflict in Gaza on other platforms, particularly TikTok, which has become a very popular means of following the ongoing war.


Why is the war in Gaza so popular on TikTok?


Students revolution..

الصوت الأصلي - wizard_bisan1

Both young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers use TikTok to describe and narrate the conflict. It is no coincidence that some clips from TikTok have been used as evidence in hearings at the International Court of Justice, within the case brought by South Africa against Israel, accused of genocide in the Gaza Strip. For many people around the world, accounts that narrate the war in Palestine on social networks have become one of the main sources of information about the conflict. This is the case, for example, of the account of Palestinian photographer Motaz Azaiza, followed by over eight thousand people on TikTok and 18 million on Instagram. The same goes for the account of Palestinian journalist Wizard Bisan, with a million followers on TikTok and 4.4 million on Instagram. Also, the Gaza-themed content of Al Jazeera journalist Hind Khoudary often goes viral.

@motazalazaiza I was uploding this vedio since I was in Gaza but I had no good internet to uplod it I found it in the draft #motaz_azaiza #gaza original sound - Motaz Azaiza

It is then no surprise that as soon as Biden's TikTok account was opened, it was immediately flooded with comments about the war. The following by American users of these accounts is so great that even the country's media have become interested in the phenomenon. According to CNN, these profiles have a particular appeal to GenZ, while the New Yorker claims that books related to the Israel-Palestine conflict recommended on TikTok have helped bring several young Americans closer to the Palestinian cause. Indeed, 82% of users who viewed the hashtag #standwithpalestine on TikTok are under 34 years old. However, according to the same Chinese social network, which intervened in the debate by issuing a note on the matter, the platform is involved in changing opinions on the war in Gaza only because its user base consists of very young people who have historically tended to favor the Palestinian movement, but this even before TikTok was created.