Fact Check: Nikki Haley makes a misleading claim about TikTok leading to antisemitism

At Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley reiterated her pledge to ban the Chinese social media platform TikTok in the United States, citing a statistic that the app makes people more antisemitic.

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

Facts First: Haley’s campaign pointed CNN to a survey analysis published on X by a data scientist, which she misrepresented on the debate stage. Furthermore, the team that conducted the original survey told CNN it was never designed to support a claim like Haley’s.

How did Haley make such a claim? Blame it on a bad game of telephone.

The Haley campaign told CNN she was referring to a story from the New York Sun, which cites the analysis of a survey posted on X and Github last week.

The analysis was shared by Anthony Goldbloom, a data scientist who commissioned the survey from a data intelligence company called Generation Lab.

In a post on X, Goldbloom said the survey showed “spending at least 30 minutes a day on TikTok increases the chances a respondent holds antisemitic or anti-Israel views by 17%.”

But his analysis didn’t include the survey’s methodology, which would have explained how and when the data was collected and walked through how researchers analyzed it.

In an interview with CNN, Goldbloom said he thought it was “more transparent” to share the raw data and code rather than the methodology, noting that his code included the survey questions, but acknowledged it could be confusing for readers.

CNN obtained the survey and methodology from Generation Lab. The survey polled 1,532 Americans ages 18 to 29 over Thanksgiving weekend. (One of Goldbloom’s charts says 1,323 Americans were polled. Goldbloom said he used the data available to him and can’t account for the missing 200 respondents.)

The survey asked respondents a series of questions about the sources they turned to for news about the Israel-Hamas conflict, how much time they spent on social media, and whether they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “Israel has a right to defend itself” and “Hamas is committing genocide.” The survey also asked respondents to weigh in on statements such as “Jewish people are just as loyal to America as other American people” and “Compared to other groups, Jewish people have too much power in the media.”

Goldbloom said he came up with his analysis by grouping responses to questions and statements about Israel and Jewish people together because it was difficult to categorize some of the statements as either antisemitic or anti-Israel. He cited one statement in the survey – “Israel and its supporters are a bad influence on our democracy”– as an example.

But anti-Israel sentiments are not inherently antisemitic. When CNN pointed out that supporters of Israel were not necessarily Jewish and that statement appeared to be more anti-Israel than anything, he conceded that was a “fair” point.

The survey was intended to capture information about young Americans’ social media habits and whether respondents agreed with antisemitic and anti-Israel statements, said Matin Mirramezani, one of Generation Lab’s co-founders.

“This is basically like a messed up game of telephone,” said Cyrus Beschloss, a co-founder of Generation Lab, “where we interview people and [send] the data off to someone. They make their own conclusions about that data.”

“And then at the end of the line, you know, the claims are just wildly different from what the original data says, which is the only thing that we can speak to,” he said.

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