Social media platform TikTok is actively preventing the hashtag ‘#Palestine’ from appearing on its trending list while boosting ‘#Israel’ to the top, possibly in order to keep advertisers. This is being done despite the fact that #Palestine has 2 million videos compared to the 920,000 tagged #Israel.
The ByteDance-owned app had #Israel listed as the number one hashtag in its category for “News and Entertainment” both in the U.S. and globally over the last 30 days as of Monday. It was ahead of #disneyplus, #1989, and #joker. Meanwhile, #Palestine didn’t break into the top 100.
When media outlet Semafor reached out to TikTok for comment about this, the platform removed #Israel from the list.
According to Semafor, which cited TikTok’s own data, #Palestine was more popular during the 7-day period than #Israel. Not only #Palestine but also #Gaza and #freepalestine are left uncategorized by the app, meaning they cannot become trending topics under its “News and Entertainment” tab.
While hashtags like ‘#palestineresists’ and ‘#palestinewillneverdie’ were permitted into the news category, these have low posting rates and are unlikely to break into the top 100 list.
When asked by Semafor why this is the case, TikTok did not provide an answer at that time.
TikTok’s trending hashtag lists are collected in its Creative Center, which is actually intended as a page for advertisers rather than consumers. TikTok tells advertisers that its Creative Center can be used to “learn what’s hot to get a true sense of the pulse and culture of TikTok overall” and to “track and leverage trends to see how you can tap into what’s trending on TikTok in your organic and paid messaging strategies.”
Thus, TikTok’s withdrawal of #Palestine hashtags has been interpreted as a move aimed at advertisers who might not do business with the platform should its content aggregation system be revealed to favor anti-Israel sentiments.