Is TikTok anti-Semitic?

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Dan Freedman, a freshman marketing major, received comments assuming he was a Zionist when he posted a TikTok with an Israeli flag in the background. Photo courtesy of Riley Kijek.

By Riley Kijek
For Mitzpeh
@Mitzpeh

In recent weeks, TikTok, the world’s newest globally renowned social media hub, has been criticized for having anti-Semitism content throughout the app’s videos and comments. While no uprising against the app is necessary, there are some issues worth analyzing.

The anti-Semitic attitude is most prevalent in the created posts and the comments of Jewish creators. I have come across various jokes about gas chambers, Anne Frank and many others. Another TikTok user who has encountered this is George Setzer, a Jewish high school student from Jacksonville, Florida.  

When asked about his thoughts when he found anti-Semitic TikToks, Setzer replied, “I just feel kinda disgusted like, ‘why even do that kind of feeling’. I think that they are trying to be funny without realizing it offends people who see it.’” 

These types of posts are not simply one in a million according to Sam Kaplan, another high school student in Florida, who said he uses the app occasionally.

“The little time I’m on TikTok, I do occasionally see anti-Semitism,” Kaplan said. “It’s usually a stereotype or a joke about the Holocaust, but no matter what, it obviously doesn’t make me feel good when I see them.” 

Anti-Semitism also exists on TikTok in the comment sections of Jewish TikTokers’ posts. One of these creators is Dan Freedman, a freshman marketing major at this university, who is also a Reform Jew. Freedman has a post that features the Israeli flag on his wall in the background. Despite the post having nothing to do with Judaism or Israel, the second comment from the top calls him a “Zionist.”

“It’s a confusing situation because even I don’t really know where I stand in regards to Israel and such. I definitely don’t agree with everything the Israeli government does, which is what some comments were talking about, but I do believe in a safe space being necessary for Jewish people,” Freedman said. “So being called a Zionist doesn’t necessarily offend me, but there are a lot of assumptions being made in the comments about my beliefs.”

The post also received many other comments with phrases such as “Free Palestine.”

While these posts and comments are very offensive and wrong, I do not think they represent a widespread anti-Semitism problem in the TikTok app. When I scrolled through the list of posts using #antisemitism, I was happily surprised to find it filled with posts that clapped back against anti-Semitic posts or comments, or supported the Jewish faith. 

Also, while anti-Semitic content can be found on TikTok, if you are not trying to find it, you most likely will not. Only a small fraction of anti-Semitism in TikTok is severe enough to analyze beyond a simple joke.

“I mostly just laugh them off because I know comments like that aren’t looking for any real discussion,” Freedman said. 

He also mentioned that his opinion of the app itself was unchanged by the rude comments. Even though there is not much anti-Semitism on TikTok, this content still has an impact on the Jewish community in some capacity, according to Freedman. 

“Antisemitism anywhere unfortunately impacts the Jewish community; I’d love a world without it. If anything though, it just proves that anti-Semitism does still exist everywhere,” Freedman said.

While the app would obviously be better off without things like anti-Semitism, the anti-Semitic content found in the app appears too scarce and not serious enough to be considered a truly serious problem for the Jewish community.

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