Jews on TikTok face rampant antisemitism – here is how they fight back

Three women joined TikTok to watch funny videos. Once other TikTok users realized they were Jewish, the women were bombarded by antisemitic reactions – from ‘flag spam’ to death threats.

Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration
(photo credit: REUTERS)
"N" noticed, soon after starting to use the popular app TikTok, that “anyone posting Jewish things had so much hate in the comments.” N said she “wasn’t posting anything about being Jewish or Israeli” but that because she had three flags in her bio – including an Israeli flag – other users left her "hate comments."  
["N" and the other people interviewed for this article are active users of TikTok and asked to remain anonymous so they would not face antisemitism for speaking about what is happening on the platform]
The comments made her think that there needed to be more Jewish representation on the app, she told The Jerusalem Post, so she started making videos about Judaism and Israeli culture while receiving increasingly hateful and antisemitic reactions from other users.
At one point, TikTok users found a former employer of N’s and threatened to contact him. She doesn’t know how they found such personal information about her, and the thought that users might figure out where she lives still makes her uneasy.
Eli signed up for TikTok during the coronavirus quarantine for a fun way to pass the time. She was posting content that had nothing to do with Judaism or Israel, but she wore a Star of David necklace in her videos and had a Star of David emoji on her profile. She would also comment on videos about Israel and Judaism. The comments and the Stars of David are how she suspects people noticed she was Jewish, and why they started leaving angry responses to content she posted – generally calls to “free Palestine” or strings of Palestinian flags.
Like N, she noticed that other posts from Jewish TikTokers received similar comments or more overtly antisemitic reactions. This inspired her to start posting videos on TikTok about Judaism and Israel in an attempt to combat the ignorance and malice she encountered. Once she started posting content about Israel, however, other users’ reactions “went from flags to death threats.” She started seeing calls to “bring back the Holocaust” and people “hoping that she dies.” Eli told the Post that she now receives approximately one death threat every day.
ALINE IS another Jewish TikToker with similar experiences to Eli's and N’s. She has seen comments ranging from “Jews worship Satan” to “Hitler did not kill enough [Jews].”
Aline created a group chat for Jewish TikTokers on WhatsApp and invited them to “fight antisemitism and the lies told about Israel.” She calls them a group of “Zionist warriors,” and says there are over 50 members.
In the group, Jewish TikTokers coordinate responses to antisemitic comments, or share historical and political information that group members can use to counter statements made about Israel that they don’t think are factual. They also alert each other to antisemitic content so that group members can report it to TikTok en masse and increase the odds of it being taken down.
But the group has become more than that, according to the girls. People outside of Jewish TikTok “can’t relate,” Eli explained. Because group members understand each other’s experiences, they are able to support each other. Members of the group have become a community that goes beyond fighting antisemitism and promoting Israel on TikTok. They share personal stories and have met in person.
Jewish TikTokers were able to identify each other on the platform, which enabled the creation of the group chat, because of the way the app works. “Pages get curated to what users interact with,” Eli explained. So if you react to Jewish content, you will be shown more, similar content. Eli said that this “brings Jewish creators together.”
TIKTOK HAS failed at protecting Jewish users from antisemitism, and the app’s content filtering system is often used against Jewish content even when it meets community standards, according to the girls. Eli says she “has reported accounts with Nazi stuff [that have not been] taken down,” but that accounts with content about Israel “get mass reported and taken down” from the platform, despite complying with TikTok rules.
“Videos about Israel or Judaism are taken down but someone... burning an Israeli flag stays up” despite being reported to TikTok, Aline told the Post.  
The girls differ on what they want the future of TikTok to be. N recently made her account private fearing for her personal safety after receiving “threats all the time.” Aline has decided to take a break from the platform, but says that she will definitely be back because the platform is an important tool for defending Israel and spreading information.
Eli told the Post she hopes that TikTok gets deleted completely. She thinks that it is “too toxic of a platform.” Until then, she is staying involved. There are many younger Jewish users exposed to antisemitic content on the platform, and they “need larger and older Jewish creators” to reach out to and protect them, according to Eli. For her this is a “big motivating factor to stay on the platform.”
Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry met with TikTok representatives on September 8, and hate speech on the platform was one of the topics addressed, according to the ministry. TikTok’s public policy director Elizabeth Kanter said that the company will “not tolerate hate speech on our platform.”