TikTok, a social media platform with more than a billion active global users, has announced a shift to more aggressive communications tactics after coming under criticism for becoming a major source of propaganda and disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war.
Users disproportionally propagate pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian sentiment, Axios reported on November 16.
The platform’s new policy includes the monitoring and removal of misleading content on the Israel-Hamas war, TikTok said on November 13.
Yet, videos continue spreading across TikTok, falsely implying that Russia is dispatching troops to Gaza in support of Palestinians.
Many of the TikTok videos include captions exploiting the theme of Russia sending “strong support” to the Gaza Strip.
Moscow has long cultivated relations with Hamas and is suspected of arming the Palestinian militant group and even being behind its October 7 attack on Israel, which triggered the current escalation.
On November 21, TikToker myus.hamed0, with 15.4K followers, shared a video showing military vehicles, some with Russian flags.
A caption on the video reads: “Russia sends strong support to Gaza to help them. 21 November 2023.”
Myus.hamed0 paired the video with this comment: “Oh My God, watch Russia’s support in Gaza to protect civilians.”
That is false.
The footage shows U.S. military vehicles blocking a patrol of Russian military police in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah province, near the Turkish border, on May 2, 2020.
The United States operates several military bases in that region of Syria, which is under the control of Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
Other TikTokers shared the same video with pro-Palestinian messages. Some variations include claims that Russia has blocked U.S. troops on the border with the Gaza Strip, or that Russia’s state-funded private military company, Wagner Group, has or will dispatch troops to Gaza.
Myus.hamed0 also included that footage in a video posted on November 11 with a similar message, which received almost 200K views.
The November 21 post from Myus.hamed0 has since been removed from TikTok, although their November 11 post remains.
Another video, posted by TikToker muyztrx on November 19, has received almost 300K views. It used similar language, claiming that Russia and Poland had sent “strong support” to the Gaza Strip.
That video edited together unrelated footage, including a video from May of Wagner fighters on the flanks of Bakhmut, Ukraine, and footage of Ukraine’s 98th Azov Battalion at an unknown location, first uploaded in December 2022.
The pairing of Russia and Poland together is curious, given that Poland’s Senate officially recognizes Russia as a terrorist state due to its actions in Ukraine.
Another video, shared by TikToker snak.sr, claims Russia and Turkey are sending “strong support” to the Gaza Strip. That video also edited together unrelated footage, including a clip that shows Ukrainian forces, likely filmed in April 2023.
Myus.hamed0, Snak.sr and muyztrx are serial spreaders of Israel-Hamas disinformation.
Their numerous posts rely on recycled footage and include fake claims that such countries as Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Libya have also dispatched troops to the Gaza Strip.
They also posted the claim that the U.S. aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, which was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean in support of Israel, had sunk. Other clips they shared use old footage to drum up apocalyptic fears in Israel and elsewhere.
Snak.sr and muyztrx also use the same profile picture.
TikTok has become a main news source for younger generations worldwide, polls show.
The percentage of TikTok users who regularly get news on the platform increased from 33% in 2022 to 43% in 2023, Pew Research Center reported on November 15.
Almost a third of U.S. adults under the age of 30 regularly get their news on TikTok, the survey found, with the figures having more than quadrupled from 3% in 2020 to 14% in 2023.
Some U.S. politicians have called for TikTok to be banned, claiming the Chinese-owned platform is pushing pro-Hamas content, to the detriment of U.S. interests.
TikTok denies it is gaming the algorithm to “‘promote’ one side of an issue over another,” noting that users in the Middle East and Southeast Asia account for large numbers of pro-Palestinian posts.
TikTok and others also note that the social media platform makes recommendations “based on the content people have previously engaged with.”
Analysts say factors like the right-wing orientation of Israel’s government, younger people’s increased societal contacts with Muslims in the U.S., and their perceptions on the use of military force, could play a role in shaping opinions on the conflict.
As Polygraph.info previously reported, researchers have found that fake accounts on TikTok, YouTube and Twitter have also disseminated manipulated or faked videos and other content to promote the belief that the Islamic apocalypse is imminent.