TikTok removed a controversial hashtag after users made viral videos praising Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America”.
Social media users suggested the document, written by the militant group Al Qaeda’s founder, offered an “alternative perspective” about the US’ involvement in Middle East conflicts.
Over the past week, users shared the link to The Guardian’s transcript of bin Laden’s letter, which was written and published roughly a year after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.
Bin Laden addressed the American people directly in the letter, asking questions such as, “Why are we fighting and opposing you?” and “What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?”
The letter notoriously contains antisemitic language and strong criticism of homosexuals.
Users who cited the letter on the social media platform encouraged others to read it, saying it helped them understand the US’ interventions in the middle east and the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Guardian removed the letter from its website Wednesday in response.
“The transcript published on our website in 2002 has been widely shared on social media without the full context,” a spokesperson for The Guardian wrote in a statement. “Therefore we have decided to take it down and direct readers to the news article that originally contextualised it instead.”
TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, removed the hashtag #lettertoamerica in an attempt to stop users from finding the videos. However, they can still be found by searching the term “Bin Laden” instead.
Spokesman Ben Rathe said in an email statement that “Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism.”
In stark contrast, the videos have also gone viral on Elon Musk’s X, where users have renewed calls for TikTok to be banned.
A viral post on X by journalist Yashar Ali calling out the trend on TikTok received over 25 million views.