Videos on TikTok supporting a decades-old letter by Osama bin Laden criticizing the United States and its support of Israel surged in popularity this week, adding to accusations that the company is fueling the spread of antisemitic content.
The letter, titled “Letter to America,” was published a year after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that were orchestrated by Bin Laden. He defended the attacks in New York and Washington and said Americans had become “servants” to Jews, who he said controlled the country’s economy and media. American taxpayers, he wrote, were complicit in harming Muslims in the Middle East, including destroying Palestinian homes.
Some TikTok users said this week that they viewed the document as an awakening to America’s role in global affairs and expressed their disappointment in the United States. One popular video showed a TikTok user brushing her hair with the caption, “When you read Osama bin Laden’s letter to America and you realize you’ve been lied to your whole entire life.”
One video with nearly 100,000 likes showed a TikTok user at her kitchen sink with the caption: “Trying to go back to life as normal after reading Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’ and realizing everything we learned about the Middle East, 9/11, and ‘terrorism’ was a lie.” In a video with more than 60,000 views, another user said the letter showed her that America was a “plague on the entire world.”
Early Thursday, a search for #lettertoamerica showed videos with 14.2 million views. By midday, as TikTok sought to block the content, searches on the site for “osama bin laden,” “bin laden letter” and “osama letter” and the hashtag #lettertoamerica yielded no results on the “videos” tab of TikTok, though some videos were still viewable with some digging.
Alex Haurek, a spokesman for TikTok, said that “content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism,” and that the company was “aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform.”
He said the letter had also “appeared across multiple platforms and the media.”
A transcript of the letter posted on The Guardian in 2002 became the second-most-viewed page on its site on Wednesday, leading the news organization to remove it from the site.
“The transcript published on our…