A 2002 letter written by Osama bin Laden attempting to justify the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks he masterminded went viral on TikTok. Some users are drawing connections between the letter and the Israel-Hamas war.
The “Letter to America” went viral after TikTok users began linking to a copy that was translated and published by The Guardian in November 2002.
The left-wing British newspaper has since removed the letter because the page in question now says, “the text was 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 contextualised it,” the page now says.
TikTok also began to act against it, but users found a loophole by using screenshots of the letter.
The videos shared on the app have garnered over 14 million views, CNN reported, but now searches with the hashtag #lettertoamerica bring up no results after TikTok said it violates its guidelines.
Some TikTok users said the letter made them look at the U.S. government in a bad way, specifically when bin Laden talked about the Palestinians and America’s support for Israel.
In one video, the user says she “will never look at life the same. I will never look at this country the same,” adding that she’s going through an existential crisis.
Bin Laden’s championing of the Palestinians was widely dismissed at the time because his Al Qaeda terrorist group was primarily an enemy of Saudi Arabia, not Israel.
It turned against the U.S. and plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and others over the stationing of American forces in the kingdom during the first Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, supposedly a Crusader defilement of the “Land of the Holy Mosques.”
The bin Laden letter tries to justify killing people and makes direct references to the Quran.
It also accuses the U.S. of hypocrisy for imprisoning people in Guantanamo Bay without trials when the country claims “to be the vanguards of human rights,” among other points.
In a statement posted Thursday, TikTok said, “Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism. We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform.”
The company also said the videos about the letter were not trending, with only a few circulating on the app, and that it wasn’t just a TikTok trend.
“The number of videos on TikTok is small and reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate,” the post said. “This is not unique to TikTok and has appeared across multiple platforms and the media.”
While the letter is being seen for the first time by the younger generations, which comprise much of TikTok’s users, members of the older generations are reacting harshly to the youngsters’ views on the letter.
Peter Bergen, a CNN national security analyst, told the outlet that he finds the circulation of the letter “puzzling.”
“Most of the people were either not born or were very young children when bin Laden and 9/11 happened, so they don’t have much historical context,” he said to CNN, adding that, “there’s no proof it was written by bin Laden and some of the things that he focuses on are inconsistent with his other writings.”