Skip to content
Apply
Stories

How should TikTok have handled the Osama bin Laden letter?

People in this story

FILE - In this 1998 file photo made available on March 19, 2004, Osama bin Laden is seen at a news conference in Khost, Afghanistan. After 20 years America is ending its “forever” war in Afghanistan. After the terror assault of 9/11 the world rallied behind America and together the US and NATO entered Afghanistan to hunt down and destroy the mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida terrorist network. But the US and its allies have been dragged into a war between a re-emergent Taliban and an Afghan government, dominated by warlords, whose power and wealth were alienating ordinary Afghans. (AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan, File)

After Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” went viral—first on TikTok, then elsewhere—in recent days, some lawmakers are calling for stricter scrutiny of the popular tech platform, citing fears that anti-Israel sentiment is spreading among its users. The decades-old document, widely condemned as antisemitic, is apparently resonating with a largely Gen Z audience, who’ve read portions of the letter in videos as part of an effort to highlight the plight of the Palestinians in the ongoing Hamas-Israel war.

The sudden renewed interest in bin Laden’s letter, which has been publicly available since at least November 2002, among Gen Zers is not especially alarming, says John Wihbey, an associate professor of journalism and new media at Northeastern University. More pressing, Wihbey says, is the need for greater transparency and data about how, and by what mechanisms, social media companies amplify, curate and rein in the content shared on their platforms.  Wihbey and Claudia Haupt, professor of law and political science at Northeastern, described the letter as “lawful but awful” content — a term of art that refers to the lines drawn by free speech protections. “The First Amendment only applies to protect from the government interfering in speech,” Haupt says. She says there are numerous examples of “lawful but awful” speech that the First Amendment can’t reach.

Continue reading at Northeastern Global News.

More Stories

Police officers investigate at the crime scene after multiple people had been shot. On the evening of June 19, a shooting incident is reported by the California Highway Patrol and the Oakland Police Department. Following a supposed Juneteenth celebration, there is a heavy police presence in the Lake Merritt area. The Oakland Police Department investigate the scene and confirm that multiple people had been shot. (Photo by Michael Ho Wai Lee / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

U.S. homicides and violent crime overall are down significantly, according to FBI data

06.21.2024
In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, a Russian Iskander missile is seen during drills to train the military for using tactical nuclear weapons at an undisclosed location in Russia. Russia's Defense Ministry on Tuesday said it began the first stage of drills involving tactical nuclear weapons. It was the first time Russia has publicly announced drills involving tactical nuclear weapons, although its strategic nuclear forces regularly hold exercises. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

“Risks of nuclear terrorism are high and growing.” New tools, alliances, renewed focus needed, group led by Northeastern expert recommends.

06.21.2024
Molly Brown, Northeastern reference and outreach archivist, looks through photos of the Saint Marks Freedom School Stay-out in 1964 from the Phyllis Ryan papers which are now part of the Snell Library archives on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

 A “tremendous opportunity.” Northeastern researchers dig into Boston’s past in support of Boston’s Reparations Task Force

06.24.24
Northeastern Global News