Nikki Haley says TikTok makes people ‘17% more antisemitic, more pro-Hamas’

<span>Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
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The former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley claimed during the Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday that watching TikTok made people “17% more antisemitic, more pro-Hamas” every 30 minutes.

Related: Republican presidential candidates clash with personal attacks in debate

“We really do need to ban TikTok once and for all and let me tell you why,” Haley said. “For every 30 minutes that someone watches TikTok every day they become 17% more antisemitic, more pro-Hamas based on doing that.”

Amid online mockery – reporter Ben Dreyfuss said the claim was “so crazy that I’m not ready to move on … I need a whole extra hour just to dig into this belief” – it became clear Haley was referring to a survey conducted by Generation Lab and released last month.

Steve Goldstein, European bureau chief for MarketWatch, said Haley was not “accurately stating” the results of the survey.

Considering what he called “a pretty decent sample of some 1,323 Americans under the age of 30”, Goldstein said the survey “found that spending 30 minutes a day on TikTok was associated with a 17% increase in the likelihood they were to hold antisemitic or anti-Israel views compared to people who don’t use it at all.

“While much higher than the antisemitic views of Instagram or X users, the study does not suggest that continuing to use the Chinese-owned social media service will further bolster the user’s antisemitic views.”

Last month, the New York Sun asked the data scientist behind the survey, Anthony Goldbloom, about his findings regarding antisemitic and anti-Israel views.

He said: “Spending 30 minutes or more a day on TikTok led to a 20% increase in antisemitic views and then a 12% increase in the likelihood of holding anti-Israel views.”

On Wednesday, Goldbloom retweeted a clip of Haley’s remark put out by The Blaze, a rightwing outlet.

Approached for comment, TikTok referred the Guardian to a brief statement on social media, that said Haley’s “statement is 100% false. #FactsMatter”.

The company also queried the methodology behind the survey, alleging weaknesses including the use of 14 hashtags it said were pro-Israel but 47 it said were pro-Palestinian, and not representing respondents’ views before they used TikTok.

TikTok is a subsidiary of ByteDance, a Chinese company which says 60% of its shares are held by international investors. Haley has pledged to ban TikTok, citing its supposed security threat. In a previous debate, she clashed with her rival Vivek Ramaswamy, after he pointed out that Haley’s daughter used it.

“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” she said. “You’re just scum.”

On Wednesday, Haley cited the Generation Lab survey in answer to a question about protests against the Israel-Hamas war on US college campuses and a congressional hearing in which college presidents were grilled.

Saying foreign (particularly Chinese) money should be removed from US colleges, and that anti-Zionism should be defined as antisemitism “so that every government, every school has to acknowledge the definition for what it is”, Haley then made her TikTok claim.