Although articles and studies about discriminatory and radicalizing content on TikTok are often published, the platform is still considered by many to be an innocent fun and dance app for children and young people. This misapprehension is dangerous: Since the beginning, the platform has been used by groups and individuals who produce and share antisemitic content and consequently make it acceptable. Many young users are often unable to recognize the antisemitic narratives of such videos or classify them – not because they lack any prior knowledge about it, but because antisemitic content is packaged in such a way as to make it recognizable only at second or third glance.
These are often packaged as "jokes"; they appear hidden in the background, or antisemitic statements are declared as being freedom of speech. Numerous TikTok-typical attributes additionally reinforce this: the videos appear unfiltered in the stream; they are presented to users based on their popularity and interaction. Sounds, filters, or memes that are trending are misused to make the videos float along at the top. The comment columns are severely limited in the number of characters permitted and they are confusing; this leads to counter-arguments being quickly drowned out, word filters can be easily tricked by changing spelling, and existing reporting options fall short or can be misused by trolls to suppress people who are affected as well as opposing voices. Consequently, it is essential to firstly develop an awareness of what is happening on TikTok, and secondly, and most importantly, to develop a counter-position. In this way, we can help to ensure that users are educated about antisemitic narratives and can identify them and take an active position against them in the future. It would be fatal to abandon the field to hatred and to make the platform less safe for those affected.
We are aware that TikTok is problematic as a platform; otherwise there would be no need for education policy players, for example, to take up positions there and engaging educational work. The important thing for us is: TikTok is where our target group spends its time, where it is exposed every day to content that meets it unfiltered and without classification, and where it picks up on antisemitic narratives, doesn't understand them, and in the worst case even reproduces them. For many young people, TikTok is not just simple entertainment, but a source of information and inspiration. That should not be overlooked in all the criticism of the platform. With our project, we also hope to sensitize TikTok itself to the issue of antisemitism to encourage it to take a more active stance against it. For the platform, the focus is on fun, but the darker sides are there and cannot be ignored. From the outside, TikTok appears to be aware of its responsibilities. TikTok deletes videos or prevents them from being uploaded. The pressure coming from the political arena also seems to be having an effect here. But more is needed, and we believe the status quo can only be improved if education policy players keep rubbing salt into the wound.
Many people have a particular image of creators who share content on platforms like Instagram and YouTube and have made a career out of presenting a beautiful appearance. We know these creators as influencers, and of course there are many of them on TikTok. The difference with the creators we work with is the content of the videos. It's not about showcasing, promoting products or a lifestyle; it's about producing informative videos about political and historical topics that counter fake news and hate speech. This also creates a platform for affected and marginalized groups. The creators have different numbers of followers; they reach a wide variety of groups and can prepare our topics optimally because they include own experiences: They are aware of the trends, the formats, and the approach that work on the platform. The most important thing: They are authentic. And if we want to reach TikTok users, we need to speak the TikTok language and comply with TikTok rules. Our creators help us do that.