independent– TikTok says it has found nothing to suggest that its users are promoting violence at schools, after viral warnings spread across the internet.
In recent days, concern and a run of media alerts have suggested that TikTok users are encouraging others to commit violence at schools on Friday, 17 December.
But TikTok said that it had found no evidence that such incitement was happening. Instead, it said it had found only videos discussing the rumour and advising others to stay safe.
It warned that the wide proliferation of reports on the supposed trend could “end up inspiring real world harm”.
In keeping with that, it said it would be removing “alarmist warnings” about possible violence from TikTok when they were posted.
The warnings about rumoured school violence have had vast real-world effects, despite no actual confirmed threat. Schools have been forced to monitor the threats and reports suggest that some have closed out of concern.
But TikTok said that despite detailed searched, it had found “nothing”, and that view had been taken by law enforcement too.
“We’ve exhaustively searched for content that promotes violence at schools today, but have still found nothing. What we find are videos discussing this rumor and warning others to stay safe,” the company wrote in a series of tweets.
“Local authorities, the FBI, and DHS have confirmed there’s no credible threat, so we’re working to remove alarmist warnings that violate our misinformation policy. If we did find promotion of violence on our platform, we’d remove and report it to law enforcement.
“Media reports have been widespread and based on rumours rather than facts, and we are deeply concerned that the proliferation of local media reports on an alleged trend that has not been found on the platform could end up inspiring real world harm.”
Earlier, it had said it was investigating the threats – despite not yet having any evidence they were true.
“We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” it wrote in a tweet on Thursday.
It is far from the first time that “warnings” about a supposed trend have become a concern in themselves, apparently amplifying a trend that was either not real or vastly overrepresented.
In 2019, for instance, a host of worrying reports in newspapers led to schools warning children and their parents about the dangers of a “Momo Challenge”, the details of which were vague. It appeared that no such challenge really existed, the warnings were the result a malicious hoax, and any behaviour associated with the meme was likely inspired by the reports.