Terrorists on TikTok: ISIS Propaganda Spread through the TikTok App

By Eileen Flaherty, Student Life Division Head.

The extremely popular social media app, TikTok, has taken the internet by storm over the past year. For those who may be unfamiliar with what TikTok is all about, check out the recent Blue and White piece about TikTok and its popularity among the student body. Although the app is full of both hilarious and cringey content, it has recently been met with disturbing videos from a group that frequently uses their online presence to create fear. The group that has started to gain popularity on TikTok over the past few days is the Islamic Terrorist Group, ISIS.

ISIS has turned to TikTok to spread its propaganda with the goal of gaining more supporters. Since uploading their videos on TikTok, the app has removed “two dozen accounts used for ISIS propaganda” (CNBC). The terrorist group has been publishing their videos to TikTok for the past few weeks, and, although accounts are being removed, there are still many out there. The propaganda that they are posting is highly unsettling.

One of the most disturbing videos they recently published shows “balaclava-wearing militants grabbing captives, pushing them to the ground and beheading them with machetes” (The Wall Street Journal). Not only are they posting outright explicit content like this, but they are also posting videos of them “fire[ing] a gun at people at close range,” editing it to feature “a burst of colorful confetti fly across the screen.”

It is unfortunate to say that what they are doing here is an effective tactic. ISIS is targeting young viewers in dangerous ways. Since there are young children on the app, if they see colorful confetti flying across the screen, they will probably like the video. And of course, that is what ISIS’ goal is: to gain supporters.

These videos, the execution ones specifically, as the Wall Street Journal, reported, “received from 25 to 125 likes each.” These videos also came from “three different accounts, which had 175 to 1,000 followers.”

This is a difficult article to conclude because this issue is ongoing. Social media, and TikTok, in particular, is very hard to regulate, and so this terrorist group can continue to use it to gain supporters and raise awareness. This serves as a reminder for students who use social media that even the most innocent of apps can have serious larger reach and consequences.