Why Is TikTok Sharing A Now-Deleted Osama Bin Laden Letter Published By The Guardian In 2002?

A 2002 letter written by Osama bin Laden is going viral on TikTok, with popular accounts saying they are “going through an “existential crisis” after reading, and are urging their followers to “just go read it”.

The letter, which was published on the Guardian website in 2002 and removed this week, accused the United States of funding the oppression of Palestinians with its support for Israel. Now it has suddenly resurfaced as the Israeli occupation of Gaza enters its second month.

What was in the letter?

Titled ‘Letter to America’, the open letter was bin Laden’s attempt to justify the September 2001 terrorist attacks. In it, he accused the United States of being responsible for funding the oppression of Palestinians with its support for Israel.

“The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals,” he wrote.

“Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily.”

What is the reaction?

TikTok is fast removing any videos with links or references to the letter, citing company policy around “violent hateful organisations and individuals”.

“Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism,” the company said on a statement posted to X (formerly known as Twitter).

“We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform.”

As interest picked up, the Guardian removed the letter from its website, initially without context.

“The transcript published on our website had been widely shared on social media without the full context,” the Guardian said in a statement added later.

“Therefore we decided to take it down and direct readers instead to the news article that originally contextualised it.

Politicians were equally fast to respond. White House press secretary Andrew Bates called the letter “an insult to the families of 9/11 victims”.

“There is never a justification for spreading the repugnant, evil, and antisemitic lies that the leader of al Qaeda issued just after committing the worst terrorist attack in American history,” he said.