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DHS Warns of Domestic Violent Extremists and Foreign Terrorist Organizations Exploiting TikTok

In a new alert, the Department of Homeland Security is warning that Domestic Violent Extremists and Foreign Terrorist Organizations have bee using TikTok to recruit, promote violence, and disseminate tactical guidance for use in various terrorist and criminal activities. The alert highlights several instances of TikTok being used in this manner including:

  • Prior to the 6 January US Capitol Complex breach, multiple videos promoting violence were on the platform, including one from a user who posted a video encouraging attendees to bring firearms to Washington, DC. Carrying firearms is illegal in areas of protest activity in DC, and promoting such activity is in violation of TikTok’s terms of service, according to reliable open source press reporting.
  • In early to mid-2020, three identified TikTok users shared separate videos discussing how to sabotage railroad tracks; methods to interfere with the US National Guard during riots; and how to access the White House via tunnels, presumably for use by individuals seeking unlawful access, according to DHS and law enforcement reporting.
  • In November 2020, a Pakistani imam was convicted in Paris, France for promoting terrorism on TikTok, according to reliable press reporting. He was sentenced to 18 months in a French jail and will be deported upon completion of his sentence, according to the same sources.
  • In August 2020, the pro-Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) group “Roma Libera” posted an English-language video to TikTok detailing instructions for manufacturing explosive compounds, according to NCTC reporting. In October 2019, ISIS militants abroad posted videos from 24 TikTok accounts depicting ISIS militants with corpses, guns, and other individuals declaring their support for religiously motivated violence and ISIS, according to fusion center reporting. These TikTok accounts were removed after a newspaper flagged the content for TikTok staff, according to the same fusion center reporting.

Activities advocating or encouraging violence, or promoting violent extremist ideologies, violate TikTok’s terms of service, but some DVEs and FTOs are exploiting standard features of the platform to evade the platform’s detection and removal efforts. Additionally, TikTok is not currently a part of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). In late 2019, TikTok’s attempt to join GIFCT was denied due to GIFCT concerns about data privacy relating to TikTok’s Chinese ownership and inability to satisfy GIFCT conditions regarding content removal, according to reliable media reports. In September 2020, TikTok’s interim head sent a letter to the leaders of nine social media companies proposing a coalition to “counter violence and extremism.”

The report also highlights how these entities are evading detection and de-platforming.


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