TikTok is a company that has a good degree of congressional oversight. It's been called to answer on privacy (Mar 2023), security (Nov 2022), culture and children (Oct 2021) and probably quite a few more things. That's not to say TikTok is transparent, but that as (a) the first foreign-owned social media network to gain traction in the USA which (b) has a majority of younger users, and (c) is a threat to established American tech like Meta and X, it's been the subject of a witch hunt of sorts with both parties trying to score points.
The latest push here has been by Josh Hawley who wrote a letter claiming,
According to one poll, 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and
24 believe that Hamas’s murder of civilians was justified—a statistic notably different from other age cohorts. Analysts have attributed this disparity to the ubiquity of anti-Israel content on TikTok, where most young internet users get their information about the world. Crucially, this disparity aligns with the Chinese government’s foreign policy preferences. Having previously refused to condemn Hamas, the Chinese government is now calling for a “ceasefire” that would cripple Israel’s ability to defend itself.
This is a typical cui bono falacy. Because China benefits doesn't mean China orchestrated a bias. Which TikTok itself has explicitly addressed,
Over the last few days, there has been unsound analysis of TikTok hashtag data around the conflict, causing some commentators to falsely insinuate TikTok is pushing pro-Palestine content over pro-Israel content to U.S. users. That's simply false. In fact, since Oct. 7 in the U.S., the hashtag #standwithisrael has gained 1.5x more views than #standwithpalestine: 46.3M views compared to 29.4M views. We encourage reporters and analysts who study these matters to look carefully at the data and talk to us before leaping to faulty conclusions.
I wouldn't trust the totally unfounded accusations which assume that if a younger audience which gets its news online is less Zionist than an older audience the reason must be because of a bias in the platform they get their news from. But regardless, it seems if this claim has meat Josh Hawley will simply ask TikTok to come back to the Senate. I'm sure both parties (being heavily pro-Israel and anti-TikTok would love this opportunity). Other alternative explanations:
Not sure if any of these explanations are more convincing but without any evidence to say otherwise, I'll go with it.