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Palestinian activists turn to TikTok amid Israeli anger over ‘propaganda videos’

RAMALLAH: Palestinian activists are turning to TikTok to rally against the activities of Israel, which has accused the social media platform of inflaming the security situation in the Middle East in recent weeks.

Israel successfully pushed Meta to block thousands of Palestinian accounts and content from its social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, in addition to limiting Palestinian content through Twitter and Snapchat. However, TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, rejected the Israeli claims and refused to change its policies.

Thousands of Palestinian social media activists have switched to TikTok in recent weeks to enjoy online freedom and circumvent Facebook restrictions.

Amer Hamdan, a Palestinian political activist, told Arab News that he recently switched from Facebook to Tiktok after suffering from restrictions imposed by the former, which he said signals the use of words such as martyrdom, resistance and occupancy.

Hamdan, who has 200,000 followers on his Facebook page, added that his account was shut down because he posted a photo of Khalil Al-Wazir, the Palestinian leader assassinated by Israel in Tunisia in 1988.

“Because Facebook is no longer the ideal platform for Palestinians to spread their cause, the alternative is TikTok, which provides adequate and sufficient space for the dissemination of media covering armed parades of Palestinian military groups and photos of resistance fighters. Palestinians with their weapons, Hamdan said.

TikTok previously ranked third in Palestine – after Facebook and Instagram – in the use of social media apps. However, it has fallen to second place in recent weeks, with Palestinian social media experts telling Arab News that although 3 million Palestinian accounts are on Facebook, more than a million Palestinians are on TikTok, which rapidly increasing number.

Palestinian activists also see more technical flexibility when posting to Tiktok compared to Facebook, with the platform allowing three-minute clips for all users and 15-minute videos for users who have 1,000 or more followers. .

“Within a year, TikTok will be the number one social media platform used by Palestinians,” Hamdan said.

Sam Bahour, a business development expert, said social media is gaining “exceptional importance” for Palestinians by enabling them to communicate and circumvent Israeli restrictions across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, as well as in the world through the diaspora.

Ahmed Al-Qadi, from a center specializing in researching social media activities, told Arab News that after the violent events in the Palestinian territories last May and after Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube deleted Palestinian content, people switched to TikTok.

On the other hand, Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem told Arab News that TikTok is a “dangerous tool of influence” and incites violence through videos glorifying attacks on Israelis.

Ben-Menachem added that TikTok content targets young people, who are particularly vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda.

Last May, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with senior ByteDance officials, demanding that the company block Palestinian content. But Gantz’s appeal was denied, with the company only promising to pay more attention to published content.

Young Palestinians filmed Israeli incursions into Palestinian towns, home demolitions, arrests, killings, settler attacks and racist treatment, with the content going viral on TikTok.

Despite the anger of the Israeli government, officials do not expect TikTok to take action against Palestinian accounts, whether based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip or overseas.

“Maybe TikTok will close a few Palestinian accounts, but thousands of accounts that incite Israel will remain active, and whoever loses their account can open a new account under a pseudonym,” Ben-Menachem said, adding, “TikTok is become the most dangerous means of incitement against Israel”.

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