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TikTok was initially a platform for entertaining dance videos and challenges. With its success came political content, and at least since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas, it has been clear that TikTok is one of the most important digital battlefields. Viral terror propaganda and a wave of anti-Semitic comments are terrifying Jewish TikTokers.

Julie Gray, TIkTokerin:
"The hatred against us got so bad after the war started, it's just too much."
How do those affected deal with online hate? And are TikTok and its parent company Bytedance doing enough about it? One person who has experienced anti-Semitism on TikTok many times is Gidon Lev. The Israeli was born Peter Wolfgang Löw in Czechoslovakia in 1935, survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp as a Jewish boy and later emigrated to Israel. For several years now, Lev has been committed to combating Jew-hatred and Holocaust denial – hundreds of thousands of followers have gotten to know him, especially through his TikTok channel. Sometimes it was about Gidon's fun of dancing. And regularly also about the questions of his often very young viewers. For example: What is anti-Semitism? Holocaust education, low-threshold and easy to consume – a success, but with a dark side: hate messages. Gidon Lev and his partner Julie Gray, who manages his social media activities, received them right from the start. This was evident in our first interview in autumn 2022. But it is precisely this "reporting", i.e. reporting content that violates the platform's rules, that does not work, say Gray and Lev.

Julie Gray, TikToker:
"The reporting system at ByteDance doesn't work. I have evidence of hundreds of comments or other anti-Semitic content that I have reported. But TikTok says, 'No, that's fine, and it's going to stay there.'"

Julie Gray shows us screenshots that are supposed to illustrate the low success rate of her complaints. In addition, she could prove that TikTok blocks her own content:
this post, for example, condemning Hamas' terror, was removed. Reason: a violation of the Community Rules. However, many Jewish TikTokers are prevented from publishing their content in other ways, according to Gray.

OT Julie Gray, TikToker
»People who don't like Jewish TikTokers report their pages and tell all their friends to do the same. Then maybe 50 people report your account. Not just a comment or a video, but your whole account. And then that account will be suspended."

Strategies that also exist on other social media platforms. But why is anti-Semitism escalating on TikTok in particular at the moment?

Max Hoppenstedt, SPIEGEL editor Netzwelt:
"TikTok's algorithm is primarily designed to ensure that people spend as much time as possible in front of the app. This, in turn, can of course lead to particularly polarizing, particularly blatant, or content that is not available on other platforms spreading particularly widely.«

We ask TikTok: how do you deal with the accusations of Jewish TikTokers? The written answer: The company has removed 1.6 million videos for hate speech since October. He continued: "TikTok is firmly against anti-Semitism, and we actively listen to the Jewish community and civil society. «Julie Gray and Gidon Lev don't feel heard, even though TikTok has repeatedly assured them personally that it wants to do something about anti-Semitism.

Julie Gray, TikToker:
"I've completely lost faith in this company and my patience. We don't leave because of hatred, we're used to that, as sad as that is. We are leaving because I believe ByteDance is acting in bad faith. Why, I don't know. But I don't trust anything they say anymore. «

According to experts, TikTok would have even more technical possibilities to counter hate comments and defuse the propaganda war on its own platform.

Max Hoppenstedt, SPIEGEL editor Netzwelt:
"To be fair, TikTok is already doing quite a lot. They delete a lot of posts that violate their own policies. They have also put up warnings that these are "rapidly changing events," as it is somewhat awkwardly called when I am looking for something about the Israel-Gaza war, for example. However, such a warning alone is not enough, and if, for example, I search for Schifa Hospital, which is the much more obvious term, then the warning is no longer there."

Julie Gray and Gidon Lev have decided to delete their TikTok account. However, they want to continue their fight against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial online – still under the name »The True Adventures«, but in the future on other platforms.