WASHINGTON – Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for a national TikTok ban over videos on the social media app promoting Osama Bin Laden’s justification for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.
The 2002 document, which circulated under the hashtag #lettertoamerica, condemned U.S. support for Israel and has resurfaced against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war. TikTok said that it had banned the hashtag. The Al Qaeda leader was killed in 2011 during a raid by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“I have long said that we have to ban TikTok,” Haley, who is among several Republicans trying to unseat former President Donald Trump as the 2024 GOP presidential front-runner, said Thursday on Fox News Radio’s “The Guy Benson Show.”
“You have got – they are posting letters of Osama bin Laden’s letter, the week after the 9/11 attack, and it is the justification for why he did it,” Haley said. “And so you have a lot of our kids sitting there siding with that, that – ‘Oh, America deserved it at that time.’”
TikTok has more than 73 million active users in the U.S. and more than 1.67 billion users worldwide.
In a report published Wednesday, the nonprofit Institute for Strategic Dialogue noted the Bin Laden letter’s resurgence on leading social media platforms.
Bin Laden mentions spike 4,300% on X, the former Twitter
“Dead for almost 13 years, bin Laden, the former al-Qaeda figurehead whose image is probably the most linked to the Global War on Terror, is trending in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict because of his ‘Letter to America,’ a 2002 screed that justified al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States,” authors Moustafa Ayad and Isabelle Frances-Wright said.
The letter was unearthed from among other documents from the 9/11 attacks on the website of the London-based Guardian newspaper. After the Guardian took down the letter, several young TikTok users began reading the letter aloud, according to the report, and similar campaigns took off on X, formerly Twitter, and Facebook.
The Guardian said that the transcript “had been widely shared on social media without the full context. Therefore we decided to take it down and direct readers instead to the news article that originally contextualized it.”
References to Bin Laden jumped more than 4,300% on X between Nov. 14 and 16, from roughly 5,000 to 230,000, and mentions of “Letter to America” leaped 1,800%, from 4,800 to 100,000, with 719 million impressions across the platform.
TikTok was a GOP debate flashpoint
On TikTok, Institute for Strategic Dialogue researchers found 41 “Letter to America” videos with more than 6.9 million views.
Searches for Bin Laden on YouTube jumped 400%, the report said, and “Letter to America” was listed as a “popular search” on Instagram.
On X, Haley wrote, “This is a prime example of how our foreign enemies poison social media to advance their evil agenda.” TikTok is owned by a Chinese corporation.
“#BanTikTok. Stop giving the Chinese Communist Party the ability to influence Americans,” Haley posted.
Last week, Haley clashed with businessman Vivek Ramaswamy at the Republican presidential primary debate in Miami after he accused the former governor’s daughter of using the popular platform.
“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Haley said. “You’re just scum.”