TikTok: The Ticking Time Bomb of Communist China’s Influence on the West

TikTok: The Ticking Time Bomb of Communist China’s Influence on the West

“TikTok was built to influence users and push them toward certain positions that they may have been far from but seem susceptible to. It was essentially built for that purpose

In a recent episode of the show “Eyes on Israel,” host Rabbi Pesach Wolicki interviewed tech entrepreneur Brian Costello about the role of the popular social media app TikTok in shaping public opinion on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, especially among younger generations.

Wolicki opened the segment by highlighting the disproportionate ratio of pro-Hamas posts to pro-Israel posts on TikTok. This comes in the aftermath of the October 7th massacre on Israelis and the ensuing war against Hamas.

 The ratio of pro-Hamas TikTok videos to pro-Israel TikTok videos is a staggering 50 to 1. Rabbi Wolicki noted that this is particularly concerning given that TikTok has become a primary news source for Gen Z and younger audiences, who tend to be more pro-Hamas and anti-Israel than other Western demographics.

Costello, who has been vocal about the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party through TikTok on various media outlets, explained that TikTok is not a typical social media company. Rather, it is a tool of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party). Costello described how the app’s parent company, ByteDance, originated in China with a short-form news product called Toutiao that the CCP supported early on to insert content and shape public opinion without relying on people to follow specific accounts.

According to Costello, TikTok utilizes machine learning and AI to serve content to users based on their interests rather than who they follow. This enables the platform to “re-indoctrinate” people over time by gradually shifting their views through a technique called “weight shifting.” He emphasized that TikTok was designed from the beginning as a tool to influence populations.

Regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict specifically, Costello pointed to the sudden surge of pro-Palestine content on TikTok starting on October 7th, immediately after the outbreak of violence, is evidence of the platform’s ability to control what content goes viral. He explained that TikTok’s algorithm groups users based on their susceptibility to certain viewpoints and then feeds them increasingly extreme content to push them in a particular ideological direction.

Costello also shed light on the close relationship between ByteDance and the CCP, noting that the Chinese government passed a law prohibiting the transfer of technology without its approval when former U.S. President Trump attempted to ban TikTok in 2020. He emphasized that control in China is under communism and that loyalty to the CCP among those who run TikTok and ByteDance is unwavering, regardless of actual equity ownership.

This means that TikTok users, including young Israelis who have the app, are being directly influenced by the agendas of those within the CCP – and the CCP who are choosing which narratives to amplify on the platform. Costello expressed particular concern about the spread of false information regarding events like the recent attack on a refugee camp in Gaza, which he believes has already been propagated on TikTok to drive people towards positions not based on facts or history but on divisive short and trendy videos.

When asked what people should do in light of these concerns, Costello advised users to get off TikTok if possible. It’s not easy, he said, but parents need to have honest conversations with their children about why the app is harmful.

TikTok Credit Pixabay source JNS

This segment shed light on TikTok’s growing influence in shaping public opinion, particularly among younger generations. The scary reality is that this poses risks when the platform is used to spread misinformation and partisan content on complex geopolitical issues like the Israel-Palestine conflict. While the long-term impacts remain to be seen, the concerns raised by Costello and others show just how necessary media literacy and critical thinking skills are in an age of algorithmically curated news feeds and viral short-form videos.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki hosts a show called “Eyes on Israel” where he discusses issues related to Israel and the Jewish world. You can catch up on previous videos here

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