In the wake of the racially motivated terrorist attack at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York in May 2022, it is crucial to assess the ways in which violent, white supremacist content presents on all social media platforms. The alleged shooter posted a 180-page manifesto detailing the racist and antisemitic beliefs he distilled from 4chan. Though platforms directly connected to the attacker are receiving increased scrutiny, the role of mainstream platforms like TikTok in promoting these violent ideologies is largely overlooked. The hateful ideologies which motivate attacks like the one in Buffalo are not unique to alternative platforms and message boards. As such, examining violent extremist trends and far-right discourse on TikTok is crucial to inform assessments of the current state of violent extremism online.
Successful moderation of hateful ideologies and violent extremist content online has long proved to be a deeply challenging problem for social media platforms. However, TikTok presents unique challenges given its explosive user growth in recent years as well as its particularly young user base. On TikTok, these ideologies can more easily permeate mainstream platforms, where they find new audiences susceptible to disinformation. TikTok videos haves the potential to reach millions overnight, and thus white supremacist and millitant accelerationist content can achieve unprecendented levels of exposure.