However, it is unclear what triggered the sharing of Bin Laden’s letter.
Based on a review of TikTok conducted by WIRED before the platform began removing videos, the first video inviting viewers to read Bin Laden’s letter was posted on Friday, November 10, by an account with just 3,800 followers. The video has only been viewed 1,133 times as of the morning of Friday, November 17, with just 12 comments.
The account is quite prolific, however, posting up to a dozen videos every day, most of which are reposted from other accounts. The account holder appears to be a strong Trump supporter and shares questionable content, including conspiracy theories primarily related to President Joe Biden. A video shared this week suggested that Biden was actually a lookalike.
Unlike some of the later videos, which garnered many more views, this account holder did not read any of the content of the letter, simply telling his followers: “This is too much to say, but I need you go to Google. Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” and read it. This will explain a lot.
The video was posted 24 hours after searches for bin Laden’s letter increased, according to Google Trends data. The account holder did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment on how they became aware of the letter. (A TikTok spokesperson told WIRED that the company was removing the November 10 video after WIRED reported it, and WIRED can confirm that the video has now been removed.)
Bin Laden’s letter didn’t get much attention on TikTok until Monday, November 13, when another TikTok user posted a video urging people to go read the letter. Again, this video, from an account with 12,800 followers, did not read specific lines from the letter, but showed the poster seemingly in shock upon discovering the contents of the letter.
That video attracted much more attention, racking up more than 210,000 views before being taken down on Thursday. Many other accounts tagged or referenced this video in their own “Letter to America” videos in the following days.
The account owner, who did not respond to a question from WIRED asking where she first heard about the letter, posted a follow-up video on Wednesday, November 15, explaining that she had heard about the bin Laden video over the weekend, but that she had not done so. I didn’t have time to talk about it until Monday, November 13, although she didn’t say where she saw it referenced.