June 16, 2024

TikTok Creates Digital Divide in Shaping Opinion on Gaza Conflict

At a time when the Israel-Gaza conflict continues to rage, TikTok has turned out to be a battleground for narratives. This social media platform uses algorithms that potentially feed content to its users, aligning with their existing views.

While media has traditionally been used as a tool to shape public opinion, now a serious question arises: Are the conversations largely being dominated by slick videos, or is the ‘authentic’ content making any significant impact on the users?.

The algorithms of TikTok determining the nature of the content you will see on the platform have sparked a digital debate. While the platform tailors content based on user preferences, the first couple of videos that you watch till the end will prompt the platform to recommend similar content.

While these algorithms function in the same way as in other social media platforms, it implies that certain users are being exposed to more divisive content on the war. This can affect their biases and existing views.

Social media platforms go a long way in shaping the political opinions of users. Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has noticed a surge in messages urging a ceasefire and credits Instagram and TikTok reels to inspire younger people to take the action.

Gen Z users, born between 1997 and 2021, find pro-Palestinian content more appealing, which further intensifies the digital divide.

On the other hand, Andrew Percy, the Conservative MP, raised concerns about the rise in antisemitic content on TikTok, blaming social media for amplifying such narratives.

The battle for dominance on TikTok is evident from the number of hashtags on both sides. While videos with the tag “istandwithpalestine” recorded more than 870 million views, those tagged “istandwithisrael” recorded 240 million views.

A notable discrepancy is evident in the nature of popular content. While pro-Palestinian bloggers on the ground evoke positive reactions, the content from the Israeli Defense Forces is more curated and polished.

Now, the question arises of the extent to which the official entities on both sides are involved in shaping unofficial content.

Behind the Scenes of TikTok Content

An Israeli soldier named Daniel posted a viral video that depicts soldiers dancing with their guns. This video attracted a lot of attention initially, but then the video recorded a decline in views.

The unpredictability of whether or not a piece of content will become viral on TikTok leaves the creators wondering about their impact, particularly when it is related to violence.

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen accused TikTok, stating that the platform is “creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis”.

However, a higher number of views doesn’t necessarily mean a positive reception. The video posted by Daniel faced criticism, as certain users considered it to be disrespectful amidst the war crisis.

Besides, it reveals the dark side of social media, as Daniel faced antisemitic abuse and hate. This reveals both the faces of users on TikTok.

In response, TikTok assured that its algorithms work impartially. Besides, the platform stated that they removed more than 1.1 million videos that violated their guidelines.

TikTok has emerged as a powerful player in shaping opinions on politics and war, fuelling controversies and sparking engagement.

It remains to be seen how the social media platform will impact public opinion in the next few weeks, with the war taking a turn with the proposed ceasefire truce between Israel and Palestine.

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