By: Laura Manis
and Audry Roughgarden
TikTok is an extremely popular app where people of all ages can stream entertaining videos under one minute one after the other. Seems harmless, right? Wrong. With anyone in the world being able to have a platform and post whatever they please can lead to some problematic posts. Videos with a large amount of engagement in a short time show up on users’ feed, and TikTok’s report system is unreliable at times. In September of 2020, a serious video on social media platform TikTok had gone viral for all the wrong reasons. The video, showing a graphic depiction of a man committing suicide, had been posted by thousands of users in an app wide prank. Starting with an innocuous visual, the video abruptly cuts to the disturbing actions, leading many to be unsuspecting of graphic imagery. The intention of this prank, though many claiming it was just a careless joke, was extremely serious, leading many to be deeply disturbed by the content. The majority of users on TikTok are young children to teenagers, allowing them to be susceptible to the influence of suicidal tendencies.
Many TikTok users and influencers encouraged their audience to stay on high alert for the video, telling them to report immediately if it shows up on their feed. TikTok user, Alluringskull, warned their one million followers “If you see this [image of video], please immediately scroll away”. They also stated how many users’ attempts to take down the video were unsuccessful due to TikTok’s automatic messaging claiming the content did not break community guidelines.
Shortly after the video started going viral, TikTok scrambled to get the video off of their platform. In a statement to Business Outsider, TikTok claimed “Our systems have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our policies… [and] banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips’ (Business Outsider).
TikTok is supposed to be a fun app used for entertainment purposes, but with potentially traumatizing videos like these surfacing to young audiences, is it worth it?