In a recent video call between Jewish celebrities and TikTok executives, actor and campaigner Sacha Baron Cohen accused the popular video app of “creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis,” reported The New York Times.
The accusation comes amid growing concerns about TikTok’s role in fostering an alleged surge of antisemitic abuse on its platform and wider social media.
Earlier this week, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, now the CEO of Asana, said Elon Musk should resign after Musk described an antisemitic post on X as the “actual truth.” Meanwhile, IBM announced the suspension of advertising on X following allegations that its ads appeared alongside pro-Nazi posts.
The criticism against TikTok intensified as the platform faced allegations of inadequately addressing pro-Hamas propaganda and antisemitic content.
Baron Cohen told TikTok executives, “shame on you,” for allegedly promoting hate through the content circulated on the app.
It is not the first time Baron Cohen has taken social media chiefs to task for failing to control hate speech on their lucrative and influential platforms. While presenting at the Golden Globes in 2020, he mocked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a “naive, misguided child who spreads Nazi propaganda.”
The video call was initiated by TikTok in an attempt to address the escalating antisemitism controversy following an open letter signed by Jewish celebrities and influencers declaring the app “not safe for Jewish users.”
Creators and celebrities on the call described receiving comments like “Hitler was right” or “I hope you end up like Anne Frank” under videos posted by them and other Jewish users, per The New York Times.
During the call, Baron Cohen drew parallels between the influence of TikTok and the use of propaganda that led to violent acts. He cited the example of the October 7 attacks, attributing the ability of groups like Hamas to commit heinous acts to the exposure of hateful images from a young age.
The platform contends that the prevalence of pro-Palestinian posts reflects the views of millennials rather than any orchestrated bias.
The video call also featured actors Amy Schumer and Will & Grace star Debra Messing, engaging in a dialogue with TikTok executives Adam Presser and Seth Melnick. Presser acknowledged the validity of Baron Cohen’s concerns, admitting that social media companies, including TikTok, must combat hate content more.
Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’
The controversy reached a tipping point when users began posting a letter written by Osama bin Laden 21 years ago under the hashtag #lettertoamerica.
The letter, which rationalizes the 9/11 attacks and advocates for revenge against “Americans and Jews,” was deleted by The Guardian after being widely shared on social media without proper context.
TikTok denied that the letter went viral on its platform, asserting that the #lettertoamerica hashtag had a minimal impact compared to more popular topics. Despite removing the hashtag, the company maintains that the situation is not a trend.
Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley has joined the chorus, advocating for a TikTok ban, per The New York Times. She expressed concern that thousands of TikTok users were supporting Osama Bin Laden’s ideology, using it as an example of how foreign adversaries exploit social media to advance their agendas.
TikTok’s algorithm has been under close scrutiny from security experts and politicians in recent months as they consider whether the app could be used to push content favorable to China, where TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. is headquartered.