Jewish celebrities including Amy Schumer, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Debra Messing took on TikTok executives in a heated, 90-minute video call on Wednesday over the app’s failure to stop rampant antisemitism. Among the stars’ complaints was TikTok’s indifference to the pro-Palestine phrase ‘From The River to the Sea’, which they say equates to the eradication of Israel.
They also took issue with a recent viral video of a teen reading out Osama Bin Laden’s 2002 ‘Letter to America’. The letter spread on TikTok in recent weeks as the conflict between Israel and Palestine continues. The trend sees Gen Z users, most of whom were not born on 9/11, sympathize with Bin Laden and agree with his pro-Palestine remarks.
TikTok has already vowed to ‘aggressively’ remove any videos featuring the letter and investigate how they made their way online in the first place. ‘We recognize this is an incredibly difficult and fearful time for millions of people around the world and in our TikTok community. ‘Our leadership has been meeting with creators, civil society, human rights experts, and stakeholders to listen to their experiences and feedback on how TikTok can remain a place for community, discovery and sharing authentically,’ a company spokesman said.
On the call, Baron Cohen accused the app TikTok of hosting what he called ‘the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis.’ ‘Shame on you!’ he scolded the executives, telling them to ‘flip the switch’ to stop the growing antisemitism. The call was with Adam Presser, TikTok’s head of operations, and Seth Melnick, its global head of user operations, according to The New York Times.
They explained that while their moderators to do the utmost to prevent hate speech, there is no ‘magic button’ to entirely erase it or stop it from appearing. Messing implored the execs to ban the phrase ‘From The River to the Sea’ but they declined, telling her and everyone else on the call that it’s open to moderation from the site, and only offensive when used in a violent way. ‘Where it is clear exactly what they mean — “kill the Jews, eradicate the state of Israel” — that content is violative and we take it down.
‘Our approach up until Oct. 7, continuing to today, has been that for instances where people use the phrase where it’s not clear, where someone is just using it casually, then that has been considered acceptable speech,’ Presser, who is also Jewish, said. Messing asked them to reconsider. ‘It is much more responsible to bar it at this juncture than to say, ‘Oh, well, some people, use it in a different way than it actually was created to mean.’
‘I understand that you are in a very, very difficult and complicated place, but you also are the main platform for the dissemination of Jew hate,’ she said, according to the Times’ report. All three have been vocal supporters of Israel since the Hamas attack on October 7. There were some 30 people on the call.
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