UPDATED 2:07 PM PT – Saturday, December 18, 2021
Reports of alleged violent threats on Chinese social media app, TikTok, caused multiple states across the country to cancel class.
“I don’t think we’ve had a viral threat like this before, this widespread,” said Dr. Jillian Peterson, co-founder of The Violence Project.
School districts in several states cancelled school on Friday due to alleged TikTok posts warning of possible shootings and bomb threats at schools around the country. On Friday morning, local authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confirmed there was no credible threat, but encouraged the public to stay alert.
TikTok released a tweet confirming, after a lengthy inspection, they couldn’t find any videos promoting violence in schools and only found posts of the rumors as opposed to the actual threats. An expert weighing in on the matter claimed social media apps like TikTok make it harder to track down individuals initiating threats.
1/ Update: 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.
— TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) December 17, 2021
“Now, the addition of that TikTok threat that we saw was so incredibly concerning because A, it’s anonymous, you can’t trace it. So, schools don’t know where it’s coming from, if it’s targeting them, if it’s not, if it’s a joke, if it’s serious, but also in terms of that social validation piece, sort of,” said Peterson.
School buildings were closed in districts across ten states with local authorities from several counties stating they’re working with law enforcement to increase police presence at school for the safety of students. This isn’t the first time apps like TikTok have been deemed as potentially hazardous after New York City officials reported similar threats on Snapchat.
These social networking apps have been under fire recently after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confirmed on Thursday they were being used to distribute drugs to teens and young adults.
“Drug traffickers are using Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and other mainstream social media apps,” said Anne Milgram, DEA administrator. “They have turned our smartphones into a one click stop to market, to sell and to deliver deadly drugs.”
For now, Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Friday, confirming federal law enforcement is closely monitoring the threats and TikTok said they’re working to remove any alarming or threatening content.
The @WhiteHouse and federal law enforcement are closely monitoring threats of violence in schools circulating on social media. We know a number of schools across the country are closing today, and some parents are keeping their children home. https://t.co/ZWsGlZ0gd2
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) December 17, 2021