The Israel–Hamas war on YouTube and TikTok

Team Members


Over the last decades, YouTube has become a central site for audiovisual news reporting, political commentary, and ideological struggle. Content is produced by established (news) organizations, individual vloggers, and everything in between. The financial stakes are increasingly high (Rieder et al. 2023), even if strong differences between channel sizes, topic categories, and geographical embeddings persist. More recently, TikTok has emerged as a viable competitor to YouTube, not only when it comes to entertainment but also regarding ‘political’ content.

The October 7 attacks by Hamas and Israel’s immediate reaction have received heavily polarized commentary and provoked intense debate about the contours of acceptable discourse, in Western countries and beyond. TikTok, in particular, has been accused of ‘brainwashing the kids about Gaza’ (Malik, 2023), while Palestinian activists have claimed that their content is downranked and shadowbanned on major social media platforms (Siddiqui et al., 2023). This raises the question what kind of content is made available on these platforms, how it circulates, and what is actually watched.

Starting from YouTube and expanding towards TikTok, this project seeks to better understand how the Israel Hamas war is mediated by the two leading audiovisual platforms, including the role of platform operators and users in processes of ‘collective sense-making and knowledge production’ (Ha et al. 2022). Using a variety of methods, including analytical techniques relying on ‘foundation models’ (Bommasani et al., 2021), we will investigate the content on offer, its reach, and the way users comment on and interpret it. Analyzing partisan positioning will be part of this, but we also want to dive more deeply into tropes, rhetoric, actor constellations, algorithmic modulation, and commercial considerations.

Global events, and armed conflicts in particular have created a ripe environment for controversy, including forms of digital dis- and misinformation. This happens on two levels: isolated communities that consume and share one-sided versions of events; and attempts by interested parties to influence the broader platform discourse on the topic. Whether done by mistake, as a propaganda tool (BBC Verify 2023), or in order to capitalize on engagement (De Zeeuw and Gekker 2022), issue-networks have arisen around almost all major events of the recent years. The project follows the long traditionof digital methods controversy mapping research, for example, on ‘fake news’ (Venturini and Munk 2022, Gray et al. 2020) but also around other forms of informational struggle. Similar to previous projects, it attempts to inductively map the issue space, by looking for the type of actors and discourses present. A novel issue is the rapid advancement of generative AI which is believed to further complicate who those various actors are.

Overall Research Questions

Main question: How is the Israel–Hamas war mediated on YouTube and TikTok?

  • What content is made available on YouTube and TikTok regarding the war?
  • What content receives the most attention and which actors are behind it?
  • Which content strategies are particularly successful?
  • How are platforms applying content moderation and content curation techniques around the conflict?
  • How are users debating the war?


  • How do TikTok videos under specific hashtags depict the role of women in the Palestine-Israel war, particularly in relation to their sexuality?

  • The Israel-Hamas War on YouTube and TikTok: Visibility of videos and their use for humanitarian organisations

  • Exploring Genocide Discourse on YouTube: A Case Study of the Israel-Hamas War

  • YouTube Narratives on the Al-Shifa Hospital Raid: Grasping the Debate around the Al-Shifa Hospital Attacks


-- Main.BernRieder - 14 Feb 2024
Topic revision: r1 - 14 Feb 2024, BernRieder
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