Shoot Up Your School Day Hoax Shows How TikTok Handles Disinformation

Every day seems to bring a new moral panic or a new hoax on TikTok. Earlier this year, it was “National Rape Day,” a “challenge” supposedly from misogynists on TikTok, but which later turned out to be completely unfounded; last year, it was Wayfair’s sex trafficking conspiracy theory, which alleged (based on no evidence) that the company was using its furniture as a facade to traffick missing children (many of whom he has seen). determined later, were not actually missing in the first place).

The latest example of TikTok’s algorithm gone awry is the panic over ‘National Shoot Up Your School Day’, a so-called ‘challenge’ encouraging children to engage in shootings across the country, which has subsequently resulted in the closure of schools.

As discussed on Don’t let this flop, Rolling Stone’s podcast on TikTok and Internet Culture, videos on TikTok began circulating earlier this month warning students to avoid going to school on December 17 due to the “challenge.” . The videos sparked dozens of panic articles in local and national media, including CNN and Fox News, as reported. Media affairs – yet few of these articles actually identified the original threat or identified any of the original videos warning of one of these attacks.

TikTok itself also released a statement saying that while it would remove “scare warnings” about trending from the platform – on the grounds that it violated its policies on disinformation – it had “exhaustively researched content that encourages violence in schools today, but still haven’t found anything. The Department of Homeland Security also released a statement saying it didn’t think the national Shoot Up Your School Day challenge posed a credible threat, but by that time, many terrified parents had pulled their children out of it. school.

In the end, concerns about National Shoot Up Your School Day turned out to be unfounded, in part because the threat likely did not exist initially. In another statement, TikTok blamed the media for inflating the threat, writing in a tweet: “Media reports have been widespread and based on rumors 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. “It should be noted, however, that despite the platform’s promises to remove threat-warning videos, Don’t let this flop co-host Ej Dickson found plenty of examples proliferating on TikTok.

The nationwide frenzy around National Shoot Up Your School Day echoes many earlier moral panics on the app, such as the Devious Licks trend, which suggested that students across the country were vandalizing school properties to get views on TikTok, prompting many school districts to issue trend warnings, even though it largely started as a joke.

“The speed of the algorithm causes disinformation to be shared very quickly, especially if it’s inflammatory like this and also if it presents itself as a public service,” Dickson said. “Because it’s so easy to put on a video and say, ‘Hey guys, you know I’m just trying to help out here. “Please don’t go to school on December 17.” You are getting weight, and you are also doing yourself very well by sharing this safety warning. It tends to get very viral, very fast.

On this week Don’t let this flop, Dickson and his co-host Brittany Spanos discussed an ill-fated Biden and Jonas Brothers collaboration, as well as PageantTok in honor of Miss America’s 100th birthday (you can read Dickson’s dispatch from the event here ), secret fuckboy train enthusiasts, the “Gorgeous Gorgeous Girls Love Soup,” and Nancy Reagan as the first Throat GOAT.

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