Connecticut Attorney General William Tong has requested to meet with the bosses of TikTok to discuss the worrying and dangerous content proliferating on the platform as another game. The "Slap a Teacher" challenge is trending among the kids on the social media app.
Tong said that he had written a letter to TikTok executive officer Shou Zi Chew, stressing that the "lawlessness, self-harm and reckless, dangerous pranks" originating from the app are adding to the problems of families and educators due to the pandemic.
The attorney general said that he wants TikTok leaders, parents, and educators to have a dialogue on the physical and mental impact of these challenges, especially after schools have shut down temporarily to stop the activities. Some students have also been sanctioned for their participation, including in the previous controversial challenge, "Devious Licks," which has resulted in acts of vandalism among the students.
"It should not take a nationwide school vandalism spree for TikTok to act," Tong said, adding that other challenges have encouraged kids to overdose on medication, disfigure themselves and engage in different dangerous acts. With the "Slap a Teacher" challenge becoming popular, Tong sees this as an implication that TikTok has failed to control the "spread of harmful content."
TikTok fails to control the spread of dangerous content. In CT, vandalism closed schools and the new “Slap a Teacher” challenge may put educators at risk. I am urging TikTok to come to CT to meet with educators and parents and commit to reforms that stop this reckless content. pic.twitter.com/soO2wVT49M— AG William Tong (@AGWilliamTong) October 4, 2021
What Policies Are In Place?
The attorney general also wants TikTok to provide information on the policies in place to ensure that there is no abuse and misuse of the platform. Tong also wants the social media app to analyze why these policies fail since harmful trends continue.
Distractify reported a full list of TikTok Challenges from September 2021 to May 2022 for students to join. Some of these encourage criminal acts, pushing school officials to warn the kids that they could land in jail if they are caught.
Even Sen. Richard Blumenthal has scrutinized TikTok and other social media platforms because of their impact on the younger generation. He had also written letters to these companies asking their executives to speak with the Senate subcommittee amid the rising mental and physical abuse trend among the kids.
In response, TikTok said it has been removing those disturbing contents on the platform. However, the moderation isn't enough to keep track of its millions of users and uploaders.
This is not the first time TikTok has been under hot water from public servants. In 2020, former President Donald Trump also warned that he would ban the social media app if it's sharing data of its American users with the Chinese government. However, a federal judge has blocked Trump's move to disallow users in the U.S. to access TikTok, effectively preventing the ban from taking place.
TikTok's Positive Value
Despite the dangerous challenges, TikTok has been valuable for crowdsourcing information that has helped with the case of Gabby Petito, the 22-year-old woman who was murdered in Utah. According to NBC News, "citizen detectives" were instrumental in providing information to law enforcement agencies.
Over 1.2 billion TikTok videos with the #gabbypetito hashtag trended on the platform in September, allowing investigators to find content that they would otherwise miss out on even if they went on the ground. Some of these videos include places that Petito and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, the person of interest in the case, visited or people that they met during their cross-country trip to U.S. national parks over the summer.
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