Is this material serious? Totally, unfortunately.
It’s actually Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” - a chilling 4,000 words written decades ago by the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States. The letter and its translation began circulating online shortly after the 2001 attacks, particularly among extremist Islamist organizations, and were first published in the Guardian in 2002. In the letter, addressed to the US and Americans, Osama bin Laden harshly criticized the government of The US, including its support for the creation of Israel, called by the al-Qaeda leader “one of the greatest crimes”.
Following the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East following the October 7 attack by the Palestinian movement that left thousands dead, Osama bin Laden’s letter began circulating online again.
On the Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok, dozens of users — including many from the so-called Generation Z, who make up a huge percentage of subscribers — began posting videos of excerpts from the letter, talking about how it gave them a new perspective on the historical context behind 9/11 .
Parts of the letter criticizing US support for Israel resonated with some users at a time when people in Western countries are becoming increasingly critical of the Israeli government. TikTok users describe Osama bin Laden’s writing as “eye-opening”. Videos have garnered 14 million views as of Thursday, according to CNN.
TikTok promised to stop the spread, which they said in a statement violated rules against supporting any form of terrorism. The app added on Thursday that it was working to “proactively and aggressively remove this content and investigate how it got onto the platform.” The hashtag lettertoamerica has also been deleted. At the same time, however, the social network refused to take responsibility.
As for the Guardian, on Thursday it removed the full transcript of Osama bin Laden’s letter, which was first published online as far back as 2002, replacing it with a brief statement that it claimed was was “widely shared on social media without the full context”.
In fact, the intention of the “Guardian” achieved the so-called “Barbara Streisand effect” – the attempt to censor or hide something from the Internet had the opposite effect and significantly increased interest in it.
The truth is, everyone is mad right now. Very angry.
US politicians are caustic. A White House spokesman said “no one should ever offend the 2,977 American families who are still grieving their loved ones. Several lawmakers from across the political spectrum accused TikTok of spreading anti-American propaganda and called for it to be blocked.
Can something be done? Not really. Although the Guardian has deleted the letter and TikTok is working to remove the content, which has already been viewed millions of times, excerpts and the full text can still be found in various corners of the internet.
Article by the Brussels publication “Politico”.
Translation and editing: Jessica Valcheva