TikTok warned on Friday that spreading rumors of potential attacks on public schools in the country could inspire someone to carry out the violence. The social media platform said it is investigating the rumors of possible attacks on schools, but warned parents and everyone to stop sharing the baseless videos since it could force someone to want to carry out the attack.
“We’ve exhaustively searched for content that promotes violence at schools today, but has still found nothing,” TikTok wrote. “What we find are videos discussing this rumor and warning others to stay safe. 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.”
TikTok made this statement after a video on the platform went viral, warning that students should stay away from schools on Friday, December 17, because there would be a massive attack. Although law enforcement agencies across the country said they have not found the TikTok video credible enough, they warned that everyone should be alert and report any suspicious activity to officers.
Based on the trending social media warning, many schools across the United States closed down on Friday, and law enforcement agencies deployed hundreds of officers to guard schools against any potential attacks. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encouraged the public to remain alert to any potential threats, while TikTok management said it would remove the vague content that promotes violence from its platform.
“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,” the social media wrote. “If we did find promotion of violence on our platform, we’d remove and report it to law enforcement.”
A security source agreed that people should not spread the TikTok video alleging a possible attack on schools since this could enable someone to take advantage of the situation. The source said social media platforms play a significant role in spreading misleading information and this often necessitates “escalated security measures” in schools and around critical public infrastructure.
Although no school was specifically mentioned to be attacked, Little Falls Community Schools in Minnesota said it would close on Friday because of the rumor. Kaufman High School in Texas said there won’t be classes on Friday, and Atlanta Public Schools in Georgia said they are increasing their security. Schools in Polk County were closed for Friday and the Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia warned parents against spreading false posts online.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned that it is unacceptable that anyone would threaten school attacks on social media. She said such online threats create mental and behavioral stress for everybody and warned against re-posting such content. “Today is another reminder of how many kids and parents live in fear of school shootings or violence,” she tweeted. “It is unacceptable.”