Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

9/11 on TikTok

An image of a phone with the TikTok app logo showing

The TikTok app created in 2016 is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. Photo credit: Alan W, Flicker

What 9/11 content is on TikTok?

Content involving 9/11 on TikTok is predominantly fuelled by conspiracy theories. These videos are posted to gain views online, which in turn leads to a problem of potentially miseducating people who are viewing them. Non-factual news, made to garner views and attention, is educating predominantly young users in completely wrong, and potentially dangerous, ways with recent right-wing terrorist attacks being committed by perpetrators who reference conspiracy theories in their manifestoes.

When mis- and disinformation is used as a source of entertainment on social media platforms, such as TikTok, it misleads young users. Most young people have not been taught how to tell the difference between fake and real news, making it hard for them to differentiate between the two. This is why it is imperative that more is done to educate young people around the issue of conspiracy theories on social media.

The problem of disinformation on social media

Disinformation on social media has shown itself to be a grave problem, with the recent conflict between Israel and Palestine showing just how bad it can get. Osama bin Laden’s Letter to America, which recently garnered popularity due to his sinister views of U.S. policy in support of Israel, showcases the severity of the problem. TikTok videos on the letter amassed more than 11 million views in the 12 hours it was trending, showing just how fast videos like this can spread.     

52.83% of content creators on TikTok are teens and young adults, meaning many creators had not yet been born at the time of the September 11 attacks. As there is no official education plan for 9/11 on the school curriculum in the UK, it could mean that this is the first time these young users have been exposed to the events of 9/11. This is detrimental, as content which could contain misinformation is being taken at face value, without users being aware of the actual history of 9/11. This in turn will lead to another spread of misinformation, which just repeats over and over. We are failing the next generation if this cycle continues, which is why something must be done.

“Letter to America is propaganda and these kids on TikTok have not only fallen for it; they are spreading it.”

Brian Fishman, former director of Facebook’s counterterrorism team

9/11 conspiracy theories on TikTok

9/11 conspiracy theories have circulated since the attack took place, however, now with social media, it serves as a paradigm for conspiratorial takes on other tragedies and events.

United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center complex in New York City during the September 11 attacks.

Photo credit: TheMachineStops (Robert J. Fisch), UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11.jpeg

Most events nowadays whether they be a mass shooting, natural disaster, disease outbreak, election or another incident cannot occur without a bombardment of conspiracy theories claiming that mainstream and scientific explanations for the events are “impossible”.

Attention seekers and trolls present themselves as “experts”, and dramatically oversimplify complex phenomena for a global network of followers. This has led to many false theories spreading, leading to viewers being falsely informed on the actual events which took place.

A prime example of this is Loose Change – a 2005 documentary which popularised the ‘truther’ movement by Americans who thought they were being lied to by the Government. This video has been watched by more than 100 million people and is a major catalyst for causing the popularity of conspiracy theories to surge.

Bits and pieces of this video are in many TikTok videos online, the main question the video prompts the viewers to think about being: ‘How do you know Osama bin Laden’s confession tape wasn’t made by a body double?’.

“This is the man some TikTok fools chose to glorify.”

Renee DiResta, a disinformation expert who manages research at the Stanford Internet Observatory.

Days after September 11th terrorist attack, fires still burn amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Jim Watson

Theories such as this, are just one of many which turn cons piracy theorising from a passive hobby into a social activity, which is why in today’s era of social media and technology. It is the perfect way for creators to get attention and followers.

Problems with stopping the content

Conspiracy theories are hard to get rid of, they generally don’t go away no matter how forcefully they are debunked, or fact checked. This is because they are a source of entertainment, something put in an easier and more light-hearted context than the actual reality of what happened. The theories, no matter how outrageous they seem become a point of social interaction which is why they are continuously spread around.

20% of TikTok content related to current news contains misinformation. This information, paired with the fact that some users predominantly use TikTok as their main source of news, shows how grave the problem is.

“The theories layer over one another, with the older ones holding up the new theories. That is why even 20+ years since 9/11 many individuals are still trying to find out the ‘truth’ behind what happened. This research leads them to these theories, and in turn a rabbit hole of even more.” 

Kay, Jonathan. Among the truthers: A journey through America’s growing conspiracist underground. Harper Collins, 2011.


Social media has also become a breeding ground for extremist groups to post propaganda; and TikTok, with over 1.5 billion monthly users, is the perfect place for just that. Although there are policies to take down videos of this nature, users can create a new account and post more content on there. As well as this, the videos can be saved and downloaded despite the account going down. So despite the platform getting rid of the content, once it has been seen and viewed the damage has already been done. This makes the issue extremely difficult to keep track of and prevent.

How SINCE 9/11 can help

We know that young people primarily rely on social media for their news, but are also aware that,  according to research conducted in 2023, 34% of children in the UK aged 12 to 15 had come across deliberately untrue or misleading news online or on social media. Teachers lack confidence in addressing conspiracy theories and fake news.

SINCE 9/11 has a number of resources to support you to teach your pupils about the facts and events of 11th September 2001 as well as links to more resources about common conspiracy theories related to 9/11.

We also have guidance on dealing with conspiracy theories in the classroom.

Contact us on [email protected] to arrange for a workshop for your students.

Written by Sophia Janjua, July 2024