US schools alert to TikTok meme that may not exist

Photo: Mario Tama (Getty Images)

Educators across the US have been notified after it was alleged that a meme circulated on TikTok encouraging young people to invoke violent threats against their own schools on December 17. Some school districts have even canceled classes in response to the meme. Oddly enough, Gizmodo couldn’t find a single example of a violent threat against a school on the social media platform.

The story caught fire on Thursday, with local news outlets in the US reporting that school districts and local police stations have been notified of a dangerous meme on TikTok.

A small selection of the headlines:

The only problem? We cannot find a primary source for this claim on TikTok. Yes, there are numerous statements from school districts and police departments. But we have yet to find a single copy – no screenshot, no TikTok, nothing – of this claim circulating on the social media platform.

News outlets sometimes pointed to police allegations, such as this report from Minnesota, though the “threats” were apparently vague enough that it couldn’t specify anything, nor even figure out the poster’s identity:

The Morrison County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it had also received a report of a social media posting that may have identified Little Falls, Royalton and Pierz school districts. Authorities have not been able to locate the message or verify who posted it.

Late Thursday, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office said no “known or identified threats as credible” have been received in the county, but will be additional patrolling school zones, liaising with districts and investigating all threats if they arise.

And TikTok also claims that it found nothing.

“In fact, we handle rumors of threats with the utmost seriousness, which is why we are working with law enforcement to investigate warnings about possible violence in schools, even though we found no evidence that such threats originated from or spread through TikTok,” the statement said. company in a statement. a tweet on Thursdayj.

The closest we’ve found is this local Missouri TV reporter posting TikTok video, claiming, “Videos like this school violence warning are going viral on TikTok.”

But the boy in the video isn’t threatening and is likely responding to the local media hype, as far as we can tell. The caption in the video says “pray for the people going to school on December 17.” That’s not a threat. That’s just a kid praying for people.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the meme didn’t exist. TikTok is hard to search as far as social media platforms go, and it’s entirely possible that TikTok has automatically removed all objectionable content and the company’s communications team is just confused as to whether the platform found anything. But it seems just as likely that angry and frustrated kids are making extremely vague threats about their school every day and it’s much less of a meme than a part of life in American society.

Mike Masnick, the founder of TechDirt, wrote a blog post last month about suspicious claims of people inciting violence on TikTok. But his conclusion was that the hype the mainstream news media gave to the stories far outweighed the attention given to violent memes. get on the platform. This could very well be a similar situation assuming this new meme ever existed.

A school districts in Missouri canceled classes today amid concerns that this TikTok meme could be real and that students could be planning violence as schools in Tacoma, Washington go into lockdown. But how real is the threat? Probably no more believable than any other day at an American school. Which unfortunately means that people have to be vigilant. School shootings are all too common. But December 17 will probably be just like any other day in that regard.

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