Videos soundtracked to a song about Auschwitz were viral on the app for three days before being removed
TikTok’s algorithm has been accused of promoting a collection of anti-semitic videos, which were soundtracked by the lyrics, “We’re going on a trip to a place called Auschwitz, it’s shower time”.
The combined ‘memes’ – uncovered by BBC News – gained over 6.5 million views, with clips including: a giant robot scorpion with a swastika attacking and killing people; a character from the computer game Roblox who was designed to look like Hitler; a shooter game where people are killed by gas canisters; and footage from films and documentaries about the Holocaust.
Nearly 100 users featured the song in their videos, all of which attracted a number of views before being removed after three days (eight hours after the platform was alerted to them by the BBC).
“It was incredibly distressing to watch this sickening TikTok video aimed at children,” Stephen Silverman, the director of investigations and enforcement for the Campaign Against Anti-semitism, told BBC News. “TikTok has a particular obligation to tackle this content fast because it specialises in delivering viral videos to children and young adults when they are most impressionable.”
It’s disturbing that such an offensive video, which makes gruesome & offensive jokes about the Holocaust, was recommended to millions of viewers on TikTok. This type of #antisemitic content has no place on any social media platform. https://t.co/K5lSOFJmq4— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) July 8, 2020
“And yet,” he added, “our research has shown that TikTok has become one of the fastest vectors for transmission of memes mocking the Holocaust.”
A TikTok spokesperson said: “We do not tolerate any content that includes hate speech, and the sound in question, along with all associated videos, has now been removed. While we will not catch every instance of inappropriate content, we are continuously improving our technologies and policies to ensure TikTok remains a safe place for positive creative expression.”
This isn’t the first time the video sharing platform has been criticised for its moderation failings. In February, TikTok left a livestream video of a teenager’s suicide up for over an hour and a half, and took three hours to notify the police.
TikTok has a huge problem with racist content online. In particular, a lot of antisemitic content and the algorithm perpetuates this issue.— Jaya Pathak (@jayapathak_) July 8, 2020
Companies need to ensure they’re doing everything they can to make their online space a safe one for everybody, as much as they can do so. https://t.co/Y9RloAc3KY
The app has also been widely chastised for its censorship policies, which include blocking LGBTQ+ content in certain countries, banning a teenager for criticising China, suppressing content of users deemed ‘ugly’, poor, or disabled, and penalising Black creators.
Last week (July 2), hacktivist collective Anonymous urged users to delete TikTok, accusing the app of being “malware operated by the Chinese government running a massive spying operation”. The US government appears to have been spooked by the claim, this week (July 7) threatening to ban various Chinese social media apps, including TikTok, over privacy and national security concerns. Donald Trump has even confirmed that the ban is under consideration.
However, it’s likely that Trump’s hostility towards the app stems from the fact that teens on TikTok keep trolling him. First, they reserved tickets to his first political rally in months, just to leave them empty, then they attempted to get his social media accounts blocked by mass reporting him.