TikTok says it ‘stands against terrorism’ and is taking action to provide a ‘safe space’ amid Israel-Hamas war
TikTok said they ‘have a zero-tolerance policy for content praising violent and hateful organisations and individuals’ after a letter from the EU called for action against misinformation during the Israel-Hamas conflict
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The statement from the popular social media site comes after the European Union’s digital policy chief, Thierry Breton, called on TikTok to do more to stop the spread of misinformation on his platform.
In a letter to the Chinese-owned company, which was also posted on X, Breton said the site was being used to “disseminate illegal content and disinformation in the EU” and called for the platform to take action against it, warning it could face fines or be blocked in the EU under the rules of the region’s Digital Services Act if not. The letter was also sent to the owners of other social media platforms such as X, Meta, and Youtube.
In response to the letter, TikTok has released a statement which says they are making “continued actions to protect the TikTok community during the Israel-Hamas war” and that “TikTok stands against terrorism”. X has also responded to the letter. X chief executive Linda Yaccarino said on Thursday (12 October) that the site had removed hundreds of Hamas-linked accounts and also taken action to remove or label tens of thousands of posts related to the conflict.
The European Commission has sent TikTok the formal request for information under its new online safety rules, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), which came into force earlier this year. If the EU believes TikTok has breached the rules, it could open a formal investigation and if a breach is confirmed, the platform could face a substantial fine. It could also face penalties if it does not properly comply with the request or supply information by the deadline set by the DSA.
Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan also convened a meeting of the UK leaders of the largest social media sites last week to urge them to do more to combat the rise of harmful content. She told Google, Meta, X, TikTok and Snapchat they must respond to an uptick in violent content, and that their actions would reveal the companies’ preparedness for the upcoming passage into law of the UK’s own new internet rules – the Online Safety Bill.
So, what exactly does the statement from TikTok say and what action are they taking? Here’s all you need to know.
What does the TikTok statement about the Israel-Hamas war say?
The statement from TikTok began: “We are shocked and appalled by the horrific acts of terror in Israel last week. We are also deeply saddened by the intensifying humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. Our hearts break for everyone who has been affected.”
It continued: “We immediately mobilised significant resources and personnel to help maintain the safety of our community and integrity of our platform. We're committed to transparency as we work to provide a safe and secure space for our global community. We remain focused on supporting free expression, upholding our commitment to human rights, and protecting our platform during the Israel-Hamas war.”
It then outlines a number of ways that the platform is taking action, including upholding TikTok's community guidelines, preventing the spread of misleading content and managing TikTok controls. It adds: “We do not tolerate attempts to incite violence or spread hateful ideologies. We have a zero-tolerance policy for content praising violent and hateful organisations and individuals, and those organisations and individuals aren't allowed on our platform.”
The statement concludes: “We also provide our community with helpful resources on a number of issues, including how to recognise hate and report it, and how to safely share stories about their mental health and access help if they need it. We will continue to adapt our safeguards to protect our community.”
What action is TikTok taking?
TikTok listed various actions they have taken in their statement. They said they would be:
Launching a command centre that brings together key members of their 40,000-strong global team of safety professionals so they can effectively take action to respond to the fast-evolving crisis.
Evolving their proactive automated detection systems in real-time to help identify new threats which they say enables them to automatically detect and remove graphic and violent content so that neither moderators or community members are exposed to it.
Adding more moderators who speak Arabic and Hebrew to review content related to these events.
Continuing to enforce their policies against violence, hate, and harmful misinformation by taking action to remove violative content and accounts. For example, they said they have removed content that supports the attacks or mocks victims affected by the violence. If content is posted depicting a person who has been taken hostage, TikTok say they “will do everything [they] can” to protect their dignity and remove content that breaks our rules.They will also block hashtags that promote violence or otherwise break our rules.
Adding opt-in screens content that could be shocking or graphic to help prevent people from unexpectedly viewing it public interest exceptions are still made for some content. TikTok say it “recognise(s) that some content that may otherwise break [their] rules can be in the public interest, and [they] allow this content to remain on the platform for documentary, educational, and counterspeech purposes.”
Making temporary adjustments to policies that govern TikTok features in an effort to proactively prevent them from being used for hateful or violent behaviour in the region. For example, they’re adding additional restrictions on users that have LIVE eligibility as a temporary measure, given the heightened safety risk in the context of the current hostage situation.
You can read about all the action TikTok has said it will be taking by reading the full statement on the TikTok website.