On November 17, Nikki Haley, the former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor, called for a ban on the Chinese video app TikTok. This statement came in the wake of the viral spread of Osama Bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’ on social media, days after its release.
Governor Haley expressed concern that numerous TikTok users were aligning themselves with Bin Laden’s ideology, particularly his call for Jihad against America. She emphasized the danger of foreign adversaries exploiting social media platforms to promote their malicious agendas and urged the prohibition of TikTok to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from influencing Americans.
Thousands of TikTok users are siding with Osama bin Laden who murdered 3,000 Americans.
This is a prime example of how our foreign enemies poison social media to advance their evil agenda.#BanTikTok. Stop giving the Chinese Communist Party the ability to influence Americans.
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) November 16, 2023
Joining the call for a TikTok ban, other influential Americans, including Donny Deutsch, a former Chairman of the advertising firm Deutsch Inc, voiced their concerns. Deutsch highlighted a perceived connection between TikTok and support for Bin Laden among young Americans, stating that approximately 51 percent were siding with the terrorist. Expressing worry about the impact on people’s minds, he emphasised the need for action.
What is wrong with young people? pic.twitter.com/fQYdPAkTAA
— Donny Deutsch (@DonnyDeutsch) November 7, 2023
United States Senator Marco Rubio also condemned TikTok, pointing to its negative influence on the minds of young Americans. Rubio shared a video depicting youths expressing support for terrorism against the United States, citing the platform’s role in spreading such sentiments. He underscored the urgency of addressing this trend, especially on TikTok, where individuals were associating terrorism with legitimate resistance against perceived oppression.
Now trending on social media (especially TikTok) people saying that after reading Bin Laden’s “Letter to America,” they now understand terrorism is a legitimate method of resistance against “oppression” and America deserved to be attacked of 9/11
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 16, 2023
Numerous Americans have taken to Twitter, echoing the call for a TikTok ban due to the alarming proliferation of misinformation. Social media videos depict American youths expressing support for Palestine and Hamas terrorists, sparking concerns about the escalating dissemination of inaccurate information.
TikTok is pushing pro-Palestinian content to its millions of young viewers.
The popular livestream NPC trend has now been adapted by numerous influencers to push the Free Palestine trend for views and monetary rewards.
— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) November 13, 2023
One video features a girl stating, “I support Palestine even though I don’t know where it is on the map.”
In his letter, Osama Bin Laden justified Islamic terrorism, framing it as Jihad commanded and permitted by the Quran. He argued that retaliation against aggression is a religious and intellectual obligation. Bin Laden questioned the rationality of expecting security and peace after decades of American attacks, emphasising the inevitability of Jihad, resistance, and revenge.
Bin Laden held American citisens collectively accountable for issues faced by Islamic countries due to USA’s actions. He contended that Americans, through their support for anti-Islamic policies, elected governments that utilised tax money and resources for attacks on Islam. In his view, this made them complicit and deserving of consequences.
“Some American writers have penned articles under the title ‘On what basis are we fighting?’ These writings have prompted various responses, with some adhering to the truth based on Islamic Law, while others have not. In providing an explanation and issuing a warning, we aim for Allah’s reward, seeking success and support from Him. As we seek Allah’s help, our response is crafted around two questions directed at the Americans: (Q1) Why are we fighting and opposing you? (Q2) What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?”
Addressing these questions in detail, the terrorist, who was slain in 2011, stated in his letter, “As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is straightforward: (1) Because you attacked us and continue to attack us. a) You attacked us in Palestine, a land submerged in military occupation for over 80 years. With your assistance, the British handed Palestine to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years, marked by oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction, and devastation. The creation and perpetuation of Israel stand as one of the greatest crimes, with you as the leaders of its criminals. The extent of American support for Israel requires no explanation. The crime of Israel’s creation must be eradicated, and every individual implicated in this crime must pay its heavy price.”
He continued, “(b) You attacked us in Somalia; you supported Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon. (c) Under your supervision, consent, and orders, the governments of our countries acting as your agents assault us daily. These governments obstruct our people from establishing Islamic Shariah, utilising violence and deceit in doing so. Surrendering to the Jews, these governments handed them the majority of Palestine. Our fight against these governments is inseparable from our fight against you.”
In his letter, Osama Bin Laden also alleged that the USA engaged in ‘stealing Arab wealth and oil at paltry prices through their international influence,’ ‘occupying Muslim countries by establishing military bases throughout those regions,’ ‘inflicting starvation upon the Muslims of Iraq,’ and ‘endorsing the idea that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jews.’
As per a KFF survey, TikTok holds immense popularity among young Americans, with a majority of those under 30 using the app at least once a week. Many TikTok users were born after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, orchestrated by Bin Laden, where 19 terrorists hijacked commercial airplanes, intentionally crashed them, and claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Bin Laden, the former leader of the al Qaeda terrorist organisation, was killed in a US special forces raid in 2011.
The TikTok platform’s design complicates precise measurement of sentiment, but an initial CNN examination found several dozen videos openly expressing support for the sentiments in the letter titled “Letter to America.” Many of these videos were tagged with #lettertoamerica, accumulating over 14 million views by Thursday. Some users, however, expressed frustration and disgust with the letter and its praise on the platform.
In one video, a New York-based lifestyle influencer, no longer accessible but viewed over 1.6 million times, encouraged others to read the letter, stating, “if you have read it, let me know if you are also going through an existential crisis in this very moment because, in the last 20 minutes, my entire viewpoint on the entire life I have believed and lived has changed.”