Anti-Semitic Meme Promoted to More Than 6 Million, Via TikTok Algorithm
July 9, 2020
The rapidly growing social media app, TikTok, is facing questions after a deeply anti-Semitic video was allowed to remain online for more than 8 hours.
Not only could viewers see the song that mocked the Auschwitz concentration camp, but TikTok’s own algorithm promoted it. Like most social media outlets, TikTok uses a highly-sophisticated algorithm to determine what users see. In this case, the algorithm used by TikTok allowed more than 6 million users to view a song about Auschwitz.
The incredibly offensive lyrics state, “We’re going on a trip to a place called Auschwitz, it’s shower time.” According to the BBC, TikTok is facing criticism for both the algorithm itself and for allowing such a video to remain on the app for eight hours. The lyrics of the song are an apparent reference to the gas chambers used by the Nazis to kill hundreds of Jews at a time, who were told that they were taking a communal shower. In addition to the millions that watched the original video, close to one hundred more used the song to create videos of their own.
Stephen Silverman, the director of investigations and enforcement for the Campaign Against Antisemitism, told the BBC that the video spoke to a particular type of pain. Silverman said, “It was incredibly distressing to watch this sickening TikTok video aimed at children, showing a swastika-bearing robot grabbing and incinerating Jews, as the music poked fun at Jewish men, women and children being killed with poison gas at Auschwitz.” Silverman went on to note that due to the viral nature of content on TikTok, the company has an obligation to do a better job of policing anti-Semitic material.
A spokeswoman for TikTok told BBC that she acknowledges the imperfections in TikTok’s policies, but still believes that the app is a safe place for all. She called safety a “top priority”. The account of the young teenager who originally posted the video is still active and has gained more than 12,000 new followers since. After BBC found a similar video on YouTube, that site quickly removed it. While it is impossible to quantify the amount of anti-Semitism on TikTok, it remains to be seen whether this incident inspires the app to do a better job rooting it out.