TikTok Becomes New Hub For ISIS Propaganda, Many Accounts Removed

The popular user-generated content platform has got into trouble with the Indian govt in the past as well.

Tech News
3 min read
New trouble brewing for TikTok this week?

In a bid to target youth across the globe, the Islamic State terrorist group ISIS is using TikTok to spread its religious propaganda. This revelation was made in a Wall Street Journal report this week, which quotes a social-media intelligence company called Storyful that was able to track accounts with extremist intent on the platform.

According to the company, the content circulated is likely to have been made to appeal to more people to come on board with ISIS, to fight for their cause, as the US continues to withdraw its troops from Syria.

During its assessment of the content, the Wall Street journalist came across videos featuring corpses, IS fighters parading with guns, and even women who called themselves “jihadist and proud.”


In one of the recent videos posted on the platform, voices were heard singing in Arabic which translated to “We pledge allegiance till death.”

Following this report from WSJ, TikTok tracked down the accounts that were indirectly associating with ISIS and spreading its propaganda videos. The company claims to have removed more than a dozen accounts from the platform.

“Content promoting terrorist organisations have absolutely no place on TikTok. We permanently ban any such accounts and associated devices as soon as identified, and we continuously develop ever-stronger controls to proactively detect suspicious activities.”
TikTok spokesperson to CNBC

These claims from TikTok are becoming hard to accept. The China-based content platform has admitted that it has people moderating content and accounts. But incidents like this, with ISIS rampantly pushing its propaganda on TikTok, raises question marks about its focus and efforts.

Things Getting Murkier

This poses a new challenge for TikTok, as well as its parent company ByteDance, which has quickly become a popular app for mobile users across countries like the US, China, and even India.

The ban on TikTok downloads has been vacated by the Madras High Court. 
The ban on TikTok downloads has been vacated by the Madras High Court. 
(Photo: The Quint)

The platform, with a reported user base of over 500 million viewers, has been hit with similar issues in India, where content filled with hatred, violence and cyber-bullying has been criticised by the country’s government multiple times.

This even led to the banning of TikTok for a few weeks, citing concerns related to its safety and lack of content hygiene.

In our special report from earlier this year, it was observed that political “Tik Tok videos of all kinds are prevalent on the app, including lip-syncs to Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s speeches. However, videos with hashtags like #RSS, #rammandir, #hindu, and #bjp overtake those in popularity and more importantly, verge dangerously towards polarising propaganda.”

TikTok and its moderation team needs to improve its efforts.
TikTok and its moderation team needs to improve its efforts.
(Photo: iStock)

Facing Global Pressure

Bringing extremism into the equation ends up complicating the situation further for the company, which, because of its Chinese affiliation, will raise concerns back in the States for Donald Trump and Co.

DO NOT use TikTok to promote and support these organisations.
Content guidelines on TikTok via WSJ article

But as the situation has highlighted this week, TikTok is finding that having guidelines doesn’t mean people will adhere to it, by the book.

Speaking to The Quint a few months back, TikTok said, it uses a mix of human intervention and machine learning tools to remove content that is not suitable for the platform. This team, as claimed by TikTok, is based in over 20 countries and regions. It now covers 36 languages, an increase of 400 percent in terms of language support from a year ago.


According to data from Similar Web, most of the userbase on TikTok is mainly in the age group between 16 and 24 years – that’s primarily a young millennial audience.

ISIS is hoping to attract a section of this demographic to fuel its mission and TikTok will have to make sure it doesn’t become a gateway for extremism.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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