Christians around the world are asking themselves how it’s possible that so many young people in the west are supporting Hamas, a terrorist group that beheaded babies, raped women, and killed innocent unarmed citizens.
How is it possible that support for Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden is currently on the rise, because of their hatred for Israel and America?
The reason might be answered in part in the way that young people get their information about the world – and it is good news for China.
According to a Pew Research poll, the number of people who now get their news from TikTok has skyrocketed. The percentage of users who get their news from TikTok has nearly doubled since 2020. Today, TikTok is the most used single source of news across all platforms for teenagers, and women of all ages make up 58% of the news consumers on TikTok.
News is not just informative entertainment. Where we get our news has far more of an impact on us than we realize. From our thoughts on human rights, religion, immigration, etc, our news sources influence us in surprising ways.
At BTJ, the influence of TikTok is alarming, because of China’s influence and the persecution campaigns that China has launched on the church using data control and manipulation. Mainstream media constantly says, “TikTok, which has links to China…” This is a false narrative. TikTok is a Chinese company, wholly owned by Chinese technology firm, ByteDance Ltd., which appoints its executives, is based in Beijing, and by law – has to answer to the Communist Party of China.
TikTok collects information about how you consume its content, your buying habits, your circle of friends and your influences. They learn from who you follow and how you engage and then they develop an algorithm that helps them to devise ways to influence your behavior – influencing what you watch, what you buy, and how you think.
How impactful is social media on a user’s opinion regarding Israel and Palestine?
Well, consider this – according to Quinnipiac University Poll data in 2021, only two years ago, registered voters of all ages sympathized with Israelis over Palestinians 47% to 16%, but by May of 2021, that changed to 41% to 30% — a net change of 20 percentage points according to that poll.
As the number of TikTok users have gone up, so too have their ideas. Is TikTok the result or the cause of the change? The answer depends if you believe social media has influence over their users or not.
The history of ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, shows that it was by design. In 2012, in a rented apartment in Zhongguancun, Beijing, Zhang Yiming collaborated with his friend Liang Rubo to develop news apps that would use big data algorithms to target news articles.
At that time, they developed a four-part plan to promote Chinese nationalism by creating an international platform that interfaces and curates content with and from users to promote specific activities, and guide how users behave.
Regardless of your opinion, the world’s largest companies pay billions of dollars per year believing that social media companies do have influence.
Data harvesting to influence social media users is not new. It is currently being used and employed by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, but when it comes to TikTok, the question is how that data is being deployed. More specifically, can China use this data as a weapon against Christians the way it does against its own people?