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Is TikTok so addictive it’s getting teens hooked on Hamas? 

The ‘digital fentanyl’ argument is back.

 

Marlon Ettinger

Tech

An opinion piece by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) in the Free Press drew mockery online Thursday, with Gallagher writing that young people in America are supporting Hamas thanks to an alleged addiction to TikTok, which Gallagher “called digital fentanyl.”

Gallagher cited an Oct. 19 Harvard/Harris poll to back up the idea that the majority of 18-24-year-olds in the country support Hamas. He pointed to a much-cited figure that found that 51% of Americans in that age cohort believe that “the Hamas killing of 1,200 Israeli civilians in Israel can be justified by the grievances of the Palestinians.”

Gallagher chooses to ignore the context presented in the second half of the statement, painting the youth of America as bloodlusty militants and not young people attempting to apply some nuance to the situation.

“How did we reach a point where the majority of young Americans hold such a morally bankrupt view of the world?” Gallagher asked. “Where many young Americans were rooting for terrorists who had kidnapped American citizens—and against a key American ally? Where were they getting the raw news to inform this upside-down world view?”

The answer, said Gallagher, is simple: It’s TikTok. And not just the addictive nature of the app itself, but also its alleged control by the Chinese Communist Party. 

Gallagher cited statistics about how many young people use the app and how more than half of Gen Z use it as their primary search engine, as well as the fact that TikTok parent company ByteDance’s chief editor, Zhang Fuping, is head of the company’s Communist Party committee (all Chinese companies include party committees in their governance structure).

“We know for a fact that the CCP uses TikTok to push its propaganda and censor views that diverge from the party line,” Gallagher wrote. “Propaganda and censorship are core features of its governing philosophy.”

Essentially, Gallagher argued that TikTok was pushing pro-Hamas propaganda onto young people directly from the Chinese Communist Party’s headquarters

The only solution to combat it, then, is to ban the app, because it’s creating a contingent of Hamas-supporting youngsters in the West.

But on X, some users thought there might be a different reason.

“maybe it’s because they can see things that are happening with their eyes and think they’re bad,” said @SamsCulottes.

“Here at the Free Press, we think that it’s dangerous when young people learn about an apartheid state committing infanticide,” said District Sentinel editor Sam Knight.

According to the latest figures reported by the Gaza Ministry of Health, at least 3,648 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since the latest phase of the war began after the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, reported the UN.

Others, though, criticized the op-ed for its flattening of the argument, conflating support for a Palestine state with outright enthusiasm for the terror attack on Oct. 7. 

“Do they support Hamas though? Or are they sympathetic to Palestinian civilian suffering?” asked @lukemines. “Everyone is painting with such a broad brush, and then putting it all down to an algorithm instead of 140 years of history.”

According to a report from Axios, there have been more than four times as many views of pro-Palestine posts as there have been pro-Israeli ones in the past two weeks, with 87% of the audience for posts with the pro-Palestine hashtag #StandwithPalestine coming from people under 35.

But a spokesperson from TikTok disputed Axios’ figures, pointing to a post they’d put up today which showed that the pro-Israel hashtag #standwithisrael had been viewed 46 million times in the U.S., compared to 29 million times for #standwithpalestine.

“Whoa, hold up,” said @funkpwer. “You mean to tell me that when people have access to both sides of an issue they might side with the people that the mainstream media villainizes?”

This post has been updated with comment from TikTok.

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