TikTok removes videos promoting Osama bin Laden's 'Letter to America' about 9/11

Social media users claim that after reading Osama bin Laden’s justification for the 9/11 attacks, they have come to sympathize with the al-Qaeda leader

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TikTok is removing videos on its platform that promote Osama bin Laden’s 20-year-old letter justifying the 9/11 attacks against the U.S., saying that the content “clearly violates” its rules on “supporting any form of terrorism.”

“We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform,” TikTok said in a post on X.

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Social media users rediscovered bin Laden’s “Letter to America” — translated and published by the Guardian in 2002 — amid heated online debate over Israel’s war against Hamas.

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A series of TikTok videos promoting the letter resulted in it reportedly trending for a time on the U.K. newspaper’s website.

On Wednesday, the Guardian removed the full text of the letter, saying that the transcript had been shared on social media “without the full context” and that it was now directing readers instead to “the news article that originally contextualized it.”

One year after the events of 9/11, bin Laden wrote “Letter to America,” saying that he was answering the main questions in American media at the time: Why are we fighting and opposing you? What are we calling you to? What do we want from you?

The letter is rife with antisemitic stereotypes and conspiracies and blames U.S support for the State of Israel, among other common jihadist grievances, for provoking the 2001 terrorist attacks. “The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals,” the letter says.

It also criticizes “acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling and trading with interest” in the West, and argues that this “debauchery” justifies the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

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The al-Qaeda leader, who was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011, also justifies 9/11 as “revenge.”

“The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq,” he wrote.

“This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us.”

In social media video posts that have been viewed millions of times, TikTok and X users describe their feelings since reading the letter as “an existential crisis,” saying that they will “never look at (America) the same way again.”

“After reading this letter, I don’t think America took out Osama bin Laden for 9/11. I really don’t, I think it’s because he was trying to open people’s eyes,” said TikTok user @biondaxox. “I think America was like, ‘Yeah no this man is … trying to let people know what’s going on and he’s saying he’s going to be fighting for the Palestinians to be free and we can’t have that.”

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“The way this letter is going viral right now is giving me the greatest sense of relief,” said creator @iamascia.

Others have expressed disbelief at the number of young Western people who have been seemingly taken in by al-Qaeda’s ideology.

“I’ve seen posts from those claiming to have read bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’ stating it has opened their eyes. The fact that people resonate with such content is disturbing & upon reading it myself I am horrified by the extent of its antisemitism & extremist ideology,” wrote X user @ConorRing.

“He perpetuates harmful antisemitic stereotypes, echoing claims of Jewish control over global institutions like banks & media. However, I have to hand it to him; he speaks outright about his antisemitic views without hiding behind the term ‘Zionist’ unlike most.”

TikTok, already facing scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers over possible ties to the Chinese government, said the videos quoting the late al-Qaeda founder were not unique to it and had also appeared on other social media websites. It also downplayed the number of videos on the topic.

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“The number of videos on TikTok is small and reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate.”

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Videos with the hashtag #lettertoamerica had over 14 million views on Thursday, according to CNN, but the platform has since blocked the hashtag and other related search terms.

Now, when trying to search “Letter to America” or “Osama bin Laden,” TikTok users are met with a “no results found page.”

New Jersey Representative Josh Gottheimer said the videos showed that TikTok was “pushing pro-terrorist propaganda to influence Americans,” adding that the platform should either be banned or sold to an American company.

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