TikTok influencers are praising Osama bin Laden for his views on Israel, sparking a viral internet trend that led to content moderation from the platform.
Saudi-born bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist terrorist organization al-Qaeda and was thought to be the mastermind behind numerous terrorist attacks on the United States and other Western nations. He was killed by U.S. Special Operations forces in Pakistan in 2011.
Users of the Chinese-owned social media platform shared bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America,” in which he attempted to justify al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 innocent people.
A series of 41 videos on TikTok about the letter received more than 6.9 million views this week, according to an analysis conducted by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD).
Bin Laden wrote in the letter that it brought him to “both laughter and tears” when the United States expressed “fabricated lies that the Jews have a historical right to Palestine.” He further wrote that the “blood pouring out of Palestine must be equally revenged.”
“These tragedies and calamities are only a few examples of your oppression and aggression against us,” he wrote of the United States. “It is commanded by our religion and intellect that the oppressed have a right to return the aggression. Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance, and revenge. Is it in any way rational to expect that after America has attacked us for more than half a century, that we will then leave her to live in security and peace?!!”
The Guardian, which initially published the letter in 2002, removed it after Google searches surged in response to the TikTok trend.
“The transcript published on our website 20 years ago has been widely shared on social media without the full context,” a spokesperson told Fox News Digital. “Therefore, we have decided to take it down and direct readers to the news article that originally contextualized it instead.”
TikTok removed the hashtag #lettertoamerica from its platform Thursday to slow the spread of praise for bin Laden.
“We’ve been lied to our entire lives,” TikTok user raeyreads wrote on the platform on Monday. “I remember watching people cheer when Osama was found and killed. I was a child, and it confused me. It still confuses me today. The world deserves better than what this country has done to them. Change must be made.”
“TikTok is going to save this generation,” Lynette Adkins said on the platform after her video on bin Laden went viral. “The amount of things that we’ve learned on this app in this past month alone that other people in other generations I tried to talk to them about it, they don’t understand. They don’t get it because they’ve been literally so programmed to think a certain way. TikTok is undoing all of that. It’s crazy to watch in real-time.”
“If you haven’t already, go read ‘A Letter to America,'” she continued.
Bin Laden wrote in the letter that Jews “control your policies, media and economy.”
“The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals,” bin Laden wrote in the letter. “And of course, there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price and pay for it heavily.”
The ISD study found that references to bin Laden on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, increased by more than 4,300% on the platform between November 14 and November 16 — from just over 5,000 to more than 230,000. References to his letter jumped by 1,800%, with 719 million impressions on the platform. YouTube searches for bin Laden increased 400% over the timeframe, and Instagram listed him as a “popular search.”
Presidential candidate Nikki Haley called for a ban on TikTok in response to the bin Laden trend.
“You have got — they are posting letters of Osama bin Laden’s letter, the week after the 9/11 attack, and it is the justification for why he did it,” Haley said. “And so you have a lot of our kids sitting there siding with that, that — ‘Oh, America deserved it at that time,'” per USA Today.