Herzog meets with TikTok officials amid sharp rise of antisemitic, anti-Israel content on platform

President Isaac Herzog meets with senior officials from China-owned social media company TikTok, in Jerusalem, February 6, 2024. (President's Spokesperson)
President Isaac Herzog meets with senior officials from China-owned social media company TikTok, in Jerusalem, February 6, 2024. (President's Spokesperson)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog met today with senior officials from Chinese-owned social media giant TikTok in Jerusalem to discuss the proliferation of anti-Israel and antisemitic content across the platform, specifically since the October 7 Hamas massacre.

Herzog hosted Michael Beckerman, VP for Public Policy for the Americas at TikTok, and Theo Bertram, VP for Government Relations and Public Policy for Europe at TikTok, at his office in Jerusalem “against the background of the significant increase in cases of antisemitism and the spread of anti-Israel hatred throughout the platform, notably since the beginning of the war with Hamas,” his office says.

“We must fight lies and hatred wherever we find them: on the streets and online on social networks in order to prevent the manipulation of and negative impact on public opinion among the next generation around the world,” Herzog told them, according to a readout provided by his office.

“I thank the executives from TikTok for this honest and open conversation, and for their willingness to face this vital challenge.”

At the meeting, Israeli social media researcher Tom Divon, from the Institute of Communications at the Hebrew University, presented the TikTok officials with findings of his research on antisemitism on the platform.

There were no details on the findings but the president’s office said the TikTok executives “were presented with examples of hate-filled conspiracy theories and false information uploaded to the platform, among other things regarding the barbaric attack of 7 October, as well as shocking and graphic content, distinctly antisemitic expressions and narratives, denial and disdain for the Holocaust, and more.”

President Isaac Herzog meets with senior TikTok representatives visiting Israel to discuss spread of antisemitic, anti-Israel content on the platform, February 6, 2024. (President’s Spokesperson)

According to Divon’s research, some of the content he highlighted had been removed, but only after an extended period. Some was also still circulating.

Herzog’s office said the representatives were “deeply disturbed by the findings of the research and evidence presented during the meeting, and pledged to continue working with the President’s Office and Israeli officials to do everything in their power to eradicate this phenomenon from the platform.”

The TikTok reps told the president that more than 160 million “fake accounts” had been identified and removed since October 7, including ones spreading anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric.

The meeting comes about a week after the resignation from TikTok of Barak Herscowitz, the company’s government relations official in Israel, who announced he was leaving the company last Monday in a post on X: “We are living in a time where our very existence as Jews and Israelis is under attack and in danger. In such an unstable period, people’s priorities become sharper. Am Yisrael Chai.”

“I did my best as long as I was there,” added Herscowitz. “There are wonderful people at TikTok Israel who are doing their best.”

TikTok has come under fire following a major report in December that said the company had a lackluster approach to combating antisemitism on the video social media platform and that Jewish employees have spoken out against an increasingly toxic work environment since October 7 and the subsequent war in Gaza.

Unnamed TikTok workers told Fox Business that colleagues have freely expressed antisemitic and anti-Israel views on Lark, their internal chat system, and said that the company’s 40,000 moderators have allowed anti-Israel and antisemitic misinformation to run rampant on the platform.

A TikTok source told Jewish Insider this week that Herscowitz was behind a memo in late December to senior TikTok officials warning that the social media platform had adopted an unequal policy regarding Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza and was allowing content with graphic violence and incitement against Israelis to be featured.

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