Still, it is unclear what sparked 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 directing 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, however, quite prolific, and posts up to a dozen videos each day, most of which are reposted from other accounts. The account holder appears to be an avid Trump supporter, and they share questionable content including conspiracy theories mostly linked to president Joe Biden. One video shared this week suggested that Biden was in fact a body double.
Unlike some of the later videos, which garnered many more views, this account holder didn’t read any of the content of the letter, simply telling their followers: “It’s too much to say, but I need for you guys to go and google Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America,” and read it. It will explain a lot.”
The video was posted 24 hours after searches for the bin Laden letter spiked, according to data from Google Trends. The account holder did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment on how they learned about the letter. (A TikTok spokesperson told WIRED that the company was removing the November 10 video after WIRED had flagged it, and WIRED can confirm the video has now been removed.)
Bin Laden’s letter did not gain much attention on TikTok until Monday, November 13, when another TikTok user posted a video urging people to go and 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 apparently in shock upon discovering the letter’s contents.
This video gained a lot more attention, racking up over 210,000 views before it was taken down on Thursday. Numerous other accounts tagged or referenced this video in their own “Letter to America” videos in the following days.
The account holder, who didn’t 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 didn’t have time to post about it until Monday, November 13, though she failed to say where she had seen it referenced.