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TikTok Faces Calls to Address Report of ‘Disturbing’ Censorship of Jewish Users

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TikTok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) strongly criticized the social media app TikTok on Monday over a report that it has regularly censored Jewish content creators.

“Disturbing to read that while we are hearing reports of #antisemitism on TikTok, it is Jewish content creators that are feeling silenced on the platform,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “Tiktok must address these serious content moderation issues.”

According to a NBC News report on Sunday, Jewish TikTok users believe they are being unfairly silenced, with multiple bans and inoffensive videos censored, even as blatant antisemitic incitement — such as users saying that “Hitler was right” — is left to propagate.

Users Tommer and Yossi, who declined to give the outlet their last names, post under the handle @JewCrazy, and have faced nine bans in two weeks.

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Antisemitism has skyrocketed on social media due to a wave of racist incitement during Israel’s war with Hamas last month, but Tommer and Yossi’s account is largely comedic, and does not include political discussion.

After their first ban, the two emailed a community manager and were reinstated, but almost immediately banned again. This process repeated several times.

Yossi said, “We’re out here to make content that’s inclusive. … Don’t ban us for being Jewish.”

Michael, who uses the handle @Oochdawg and also avoids politics, said he has been banned twice since the end of last month for “violating community guidelines,” but has been given no explanation as to what these guidelines are.

“The comments that I get and the hate that I get and the bans that I get are simply because I’m Jewish,” he said. “There’s no other explanation.”

Another user, Julia Massey, told the outlet that even her most innocuous posts result in bans.

“It just repeats and repeats until I’m basically entirely incapable of interacting whatsoever on the app,” she said.

This is especially ironic, many of the users said, because comments on their posts are often viciously racist and antisemitic, leading them to wonder if they should hide their Jewish identity.

Massey stated, “More recently, people have been much more outspoken and comfortable expressing their antisemitism and have basically entirely dismantled my ability of reaching anyone on the internet.”

On some occasions, the Jewish creators had videos removed that were specifically critical of antisemitic posts and comments.

“Normally, the videos that I can almost always rely on getting taken down are when I reply to comments that I receive that will say terrible things such as ‘Why is it Jews always look like rats?'” said Massey.

In one case, a reposted video marking the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day was removed, even though it was made by TikTok itself.

The users do not know precisely what is motivating the censorship. Some believe that the reasons are hostile, with other users mass reporting their work. Others think a TikTok algorithm intended to stop antisemitism is accidentally censoring all Jewish content.

Michael said the effect has been significant.

“Jews don’t feel safe on TikTok. We feel it’s very toxic to us just for the same basic, fun TikToks we’re posting like everybody else,” he said.

A TikTok spokesperson told NBC News that the site rejects antisemitism and is working with Jewish groups to fight it.

“We care deeply about fostering a welcoming environment and remove content that promotes hateful behavior, including antisemitic content,” the spokesperson said.

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