For years, the Islamic State has used popular social media platforms networks Facebook, Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube to recruit across the world—so of course, TikTok, one of the fastest-growing platforms, has been used to push ISIS propaganda.
TikTok recently removed about two dozen accounts that were sharing ISIS content, according to the Wall Street Journal. Social media monitoring firm Storyful found the posts that reportedly feature ISIS songs and show Islamic State fighters with weapons, corpses being displayed in streets, and women saying they are “jihadist and proud.” Some videos reportedly included basic TikTok editing like filters and floating hearts and stars.
All the videos and accounts found by Storyful were reportedly removed by TikTok after WSJ flagged the videos.
“Content promoting terrorist organizations has absolutely no place on TikTok,” a TikTok spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement. “We permanently ban any such accounts and associated devices as soon as identified, and we continuously develop ever-stronger controls to proactively detect suspicious activity.”
The spokesperson added that terrorist propaganda is an “industry-wide challenge,” and the company, which is owned by the China-based ByteDance, has a team dedicated to “aggressively protecting against malicious behavior on TikTok.”
Elisabeth Kendall, an Oxford University professor who researchers extremism, explained to WSJ that one reason why the peppy and catchy short-video app may be an effective tool for ISIS is because the group aims to rouse potential recruits instead of preach to them.
“The rhyme, beat, evocative lyrics and punchy delivery are especially appealing to youth,” Kendall told WSJ. “This catchy sing-along method for propagating ISIS ideology means it spreads quickly and sticks in the collective memory. It tends to be far more effective than sermons or theological debate and treatises.”
As WSJ points out, ISIS’s embrace of TikTok follows an audio message purportedly recorded by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that was released last month. The message reportedly commands his supporters to escalate their efforts after losing their territory in Iraq and Syria.