TikTok algorithm promoted ‘sickening’ anti-Semitic meme
TikTok has removed a collection of videos found by the BBC to use a disgusting anti-Semitic song that has gained over 6.5 million views.
The song appeared on the app on Sunday and includes the lyrics: “We are going on a trip to a place called Auschwitz, it’s time for a shower.”
The first video that used the song showed a giant robotic scorpion with a swastika attacking and killing people.
TikTok’s algorithm ensured that the video alone got over six million views.
Other videos that made further use of the song contributed half a million more views.
Auschwitz was a Nazi death camp in Poland, where over a million people died during the Second World War, many of them in the gas chambers after being told that they would take a shared shower.
Almost 100 users have chosen the song for their videos. One showed a character from the computer game Roblox who looks like Hitler.
Another used a clip from a shooter game in which people are killed by green gas canisters.
Other videos used images of films or television documentaries about the Holocaust.
The video collection attracted the general public in less than three days before they were removed.
“It was incredibly distressing to watch this disgusting TikTok video aimed at children, showing a swastika robot that grabs and incinerates Jews, while music made fun of men and women, women and children killed with poisonous gas in Auschwitz,” he said. said Stephen Silverman, director of the investigation and execution of the campaign against anti-Semitism.
“TikTok has a particular obligation to tackle this content quickly because it specializes in providing viral videos to children and young adults when they are most emotional, yet our research has shown that TikTok has become one of the fastest carriers for meme transmission. mocking of the Holocaust. “
TikTok took about eight hours to remove all offensive videos.
A spokesman said: “Keeping our users safe is a top priority for TikTok and our community guidelines clarify what is not acceptable on our platform.
“We do not tolerate any content that includes hate speech and the sound in question, along with all associated videos, has been removed. While we will not capture every instance of inappropriate content, we are constantly improving our technologies and policies to ensure TikTok remains a place sure for a positive creative expression. “”
Some experts believe that TikTok should do more to check the content of the videos before promoting them to a wider audience.
Michael Priem, CEO of Modern Impact, said: “TikTok is not revealing their algorithms or the underlying strategy. But it is widely believed that it is similar to other commonly used models that collect data on our content consumption and on the network influenced by colleagues.
“As specific videos gain momentum, the algorithm promotes them more widely across the platform. So users intuitively ask each other to ‘help this go viral’. The problems then arise on the filter content. “
The user who posted the original video that started the meme appears to be a young UK teen. He did not respond to requests for comment and his account was still active at the time of writing. He wrote on his profile that he gained 12,000 new followers after posting the video.
A very similar version of the video was uploaded to YouTube in 2015. It was posted on a small channel and achieved 67,000 views in the nearly five years it was published. YouTube removed it after being contacted by the BBC.
It’s unclear where the song came from, but the images come from a computer game called Besiege that allows players to create their own siege weapons.