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May 11, 2021 1:46 pm
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Israeli Authorities Scramble to Combat the TikTok Incitement Helping to Fuel Current Violence

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Masked Palestinians gesture as the Dome of the Rock is seen in the background following clashes with Israeli police at the compound that houses al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 10, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad.

As Israel fights ongoing Palestinian riots and the massive rocket attacks on its towns and cities, another front has opened up on social media: what Israeli security and intelligence agencies are calling the “TikTok intifada.”

The Hebrew news outlet N12 reported that large numbers of users of the popular video-sharing platform TikTok are exploiting the site in order to engage in incitement and encourage violence and terrorism.

These videos tend to fall into three categories: attacks on Jews and symbols of the Israeli government; religious incitement, usually involving false claims of Israeli attacks on the al-Aqsa Mosque; and instructional videos on how to commit acts of terrorism.

Israeli security forces see the wave of such videos as a primary driving force behind the current violence, if not the cause, and terror groups such as Hamas are aware of and attempting to weaponize it.

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A Shin Bet source told N12 that TikTok is “the dark side of social networks,” because unlike Twitter or Facebook, it is largely unmoderated, allowing all manner of incitement on its platform.

Israeli authorities made the case for stricter moderation to the social network, but it refused to make changes, claiming in one instance that a video showing the erasure of Israel from a map of the region was a political statement, not incitement.

As a result, units of Israel’s intelligence services, the Shin Bet, and the Israel Police have taken proactive measures to contain the incitement, such as tracing those uploading such videos and giving them direct warnings to take the material down. In extreme situations, an arrest may be made.

A police source said TikTok has also become a “major tool” for inciting Israeli Arabs, but “they do not take into consideration that we are also there to locate them and we will reach them.”

The source added that such videos have been uploaded on the social network with increasing frequency over the past year, and are not a new problem.

The IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson is also working on TikTok, attempting to speak directly to Israeli Arabs in order to lower tensions by uploading videos that show Arabic-speaking IDF soldiers explaining the Israeli narrative.

All of the sources who spoke to N12 said that there is no chance TikTok will act against the incitement videos, and argued that the best strategy is to engage in counter-propaganda.

However, said one source, at the moment Israel is not doing enough to tackle the problem.

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