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Jewish Creators Write Open Letter to TikTok

The following letter has been released by TikTok’s most influential Jewish public figures addressing the platform’s rampant antisemitism and inaction to protect Jewish creators and the broader Jewish community:

Dear TikTok,

Your platform is not safe for Jewish users.

Simply put, TikTok lacks critical safety features to protect Jewish content creators and the broader Jewish TikTok community, leaving us in digital and physical danger. The company and your thousands of employees in public policy, creator partnerships, product development, and content moderation – who are supposed to protect users, are not doing enough.

Your Jewish creators – who regularly enliven the For You page with videos of dancing, cooking, singing, and positivity of all kinds – are being bombarded with abhorrent inhumanity solely due to our ethno-religious identity. This hate and vitriol is not rare, spontaneous or unexpected. Sadly, rampant antisemitism is a common problem that TikTok has failed to address for far too long.

The daily reality for Jewish content creators on TikTok includes death threats, endless threatening comments on posts (many just for being Jewish), and a barrage of harassment in all forms of TikTok-facilitated interaction. And that was true before the massacres of Jews on October 7. Since then, the hate directed at Jewish content creators has been compounded to unimaginable degrees. It’s relentless and, worst of all, it’s largely permitted.

As Jews, we are scared, distraught, and at a breaking point. This isn’t just “digital harassment.” There are real world implications. Anger fueled by TikTok has led directly to antisemitic harassment, assault, and vandalism. We are scared to leave our homes. We feel compelled to hire armed security. We are frightened to post for fear of receiving more suffocating digital hate.

We fear that only an unfathomable tragedy befalling a Jewish TikTok creator will lead to change. Is that what you are waiting for?

Let’s be clear: This moment isn’t just another cultural conflict or trending conversation. The inaction in the face of Jew-hatred that we are experiencing today is also how the Holocaust started. Yes, it’s a dramatic historical analogy, but it’s never been more necessary to point out. And like last time, there are many other marginalized groups similarly impacted. TikTok’s failure to protect its most vulnerable communities hurts all vulnerable communities.

TikTok is at the epicenter of cultural conversation and provides billions of people information and context about what’s going on in the world. As a leader, TikTok is falling woefully short by not protecting the safety of its Jewish creators and community and by not monitoring and guiding public discourse to ensure the platform doesn’t become a permanent cesspool of indiscriminate and aggressive antisemitism.

We urge your immediate action to:

  • Fix your safety tools. TikTok’s current tools are failing to keep creators safe. When creators find themselves in extraordinarily hostile digital environments, they rely on safety features built to protect them from indiscriminate harassment. Yet for Jewish creators facing the onslaught of antisemitic hate unleashed by the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist massacre, many of these safety features are not straightforward or effective. Some simply don’t work. For example, a creator using comment filters to avoid hearing calls for the destruction of Israel and Jewish genocide by blocking the keywords “From the river to the sea” still receives a flood of that phrase in their comment section. Hostile users also bypass safety features by replacing the letter “S” with a “$” symbol. Creators are left exposed to systematic harassment with no solution to protect themselves other than privatizing their account, a punitive measure for anyone whose career and livelihood depend on being a creator.
  • Moderate content fairly, equitably, and safely.  Content moderation on TikTok has been notoriously plagued by inaction, inconsistency, and bias. When harassment targeting Jews is reported, it is frequently not addressed. Most of the violent threats we received and reported on our own accounts have been met by TikTok’s assessment, within minutes, that “no violation [was] detected.” And it is clear that TikTok moderators lack the cultural sensitivity and competency required to navigate the hate directed at Jewish creators. Jewish users reporting death threats received responses from TikTok moderators confirming that, “I hope you die” is a permissible comment. First-person stories about the atrocities committed against Israeli civilians are immediately flagged and removed, and creators are bombarded by antisemitic comments. And Jewish creators’ audiences – communities that we’ve worked long and hard to cultivate – are more inaccessible than ever, with violent critics fueling algorithm-based engagement in the wrong direction. For example, TikTok analytics reveal that prominent Jewish creators’ posts about Israel and Hamas see engagement of less than 1% compared to accounts that follow the creator. This algorithm flaw rewards hostility.
  • Prioritize verified and objective content in times of crisis. Rampant misinformation is being spread on TikTok about the war Hamas launched against Israel. Thousands of self-proclaimed “experts” create videos spreading misinformation including, “Israel is committing genocide” that are viewed by hundreds of millions of people. TikTok must adhere warnings to these videos, similar to warnings about misinformation related to COVID-19, alerting viewers that they may be viewing inaccurate information and recommending verified sources of information. Fallacious headlines and “explainers” cannot be walked back once they
    misinform millions of viewers.
  • Provide swift and robust infrastructure to respond to physical threats. Jewish TikTok creators should be invited to provide critical feedback and recommend solutions to our safety concerns based on our unique experience on the platform. We recommend the creation of a community manager role dedicated to Jewish creators and the broader atmosphere of the Jewish TikTok community, similar to the roles TikTok has created for other minority groups.

TikTok is more than just an app, and you have a grave responsibility as stewards of the daily influence and media consumption of more than one billion people. This is your chance to protect your Jewish content creators, the Jewish TikTok community, and many other communities hurt by the shortcomings of TikTok’s safety infrastructure.

We implore you to do right at a time of historic antisemitism. We implore you to do right for the victims of terrorism. We implore you to do right for the Jewish users who put their trust in the safety of your platform. TikTok calls itself a platform that can be for everyone and benefit all, but we are telling you: Jewish creators and users are not safe. Please do better to protect us.

We are creators who have built careers and communities on TikTok, and we want to see the platform succeed. But that starts with safety, above all else.

Sincerely,

Amy Schumer (@therealamyschumer)
Ari Dayan (@witchofthewestcoast)
Alexa Lemieux (@mrsalexalemieux)
Aline Cohen (@aline_cohenn)
Amanda Hirsch (@notskinnybutnotfat)
Batsheva Haart (@batshevahaart)
Brandon Berman (@updatingshow)
Bradley J. Fischer
Brett Gelman (@brettgelman)
Carly Weinstein (@carlyweinstein1)
Dana Hasson (@danahassonn)
Danielle Brown (@healthygirlkitchen)
Debra Messing (@therealdebramessing)
Eitan Bernath (@eitan)
Ellie Zeiler (@elliezeiler)
Elliot Tebele (@fjerry)
Harrison Forman (@updatingshow)
Hen Mazzig (@hen.mazzig)
Isaac Mizrahi (@imisaacmizrahi)
Jake Cohen (@jakecohen)
Josh Zilberberg (@josh.zilberberg)
Judy Gold (@jewdygold)
Leah McSweeney (@therealleahmcsweeney)
Mandana Dayani
Michael Rapaport (@michaelrapaport)
Miriam Ezagui (@miriamezagui)
Montana Tucker (@montanatucker)
Modi Wiczyk
Moti Ankari (@motiankari)
Natalie Friedman (@nataliefriedman)

Talia Lichtenstein (@talialichtstein)

(Current list as of 10/31/23, 10:00 PM EST; subject to change at time of publication)

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