Which Went More Viral Challenge: Local News Stories Or TikTok School Violence 'Challenge'?

from the its-local-news-ftw dept

Last month we wrote about adults completely freaking out about supposed viral "TikTok challenges" to do violence in schools. We highlighted a truly excellent Reply All podcast episode and a thorough debunking at Curbed, both of which showed that while there may be some kids doing some stupid stuff on TikTok (because kids and because TikTok) there's no evidence that any of the really bad stuff actually happened, and what little stuff did happen didn't appear to actually go viral. What did go viral were adults -- school cops ("School Resource Officers") and administrators -- spreading weakly sourced claims about such challenges.

And it appears we're going through that all over again. A bunch of schools around the country are closed today or on "heightened alert" due to ambiguous claims of a "TikTok challenge" to shoot up schools. And, obviously, coming so soon after another very tragic school shooting (which was not inspired by any TikTok challenge) you can completely understand why administrators, teachers, and parents alike are at least concerned. But... let's put things in a bit of perspective here. Because with a huge percentage of schools around the country sending home "warning" notes, and the local news blasting stories about this, I'm curious which went more viral? The TikTok "challenge" video that not a single one of these articles has identified or shown or even described? Or all of the many news stories about it?


At least some of the schools (but not all) and some of the news articles (but not all) note that there is no evidence of a credible threat in their school districts, but it seems pretty obvious that the "viral" part of this story was not on TikTok at all, but rather in the media itself. Of course, this follows the same trend we've pointed out in the past: the viral stories spread via the regular old media. Yet, everyone freaks out and demands regulations of social media?

This is not to say there wasn't some dumb kid on TikTok who made such a post. There may have been. But the fact that no one seems to be able to say who it was, where it was, what it said, or how far it spread sure raises questions about how much of it actually happened. And, yes, perhaps there will be school violence today, because (tragically, and for unfortunate reasons) that happens way too often. But it's important to keep all of this in perspective. How many people do we think learned about this so-called "challenge" from TikTok, and how many learned about it from the local media or the local school district?

And, no, I don't envy school administrators trying to figure out how to deal with this, because they know that if they don't send such a note home and something does happen, then they'll get raked over the coals for their supposed "failures." So the incentives suggest sending one of those notes home and then taking other actions.

But where does that leave us? We've just shown kids how incredibly it easy is to manipulate adults across the country into panicking and freaking out and in many cases shutting down school for a day -- because of some vague, undefined claims of a supposedly "viral" TikTok video that no one can actually identify. If anything is going to cause disruptions and problems in schools, it's that.

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Filed Under: challenge, local media, moral panic, school violence, schools, tiktok challenge
Companies: tiktok


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  • identicon
    kallethen, 17 Dec 2021 @ 9:40am

    I bet the TikTok was posted by one of those bird drones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2021 @ 10:01am

    Detention will not prevent kids doing stupid Tik Tok things. And if the Tik Tok thing is something that requires official law enforcement attention, even that won't deter kids.

    set(heard about the challenge) > set(heard about the penalty) > set(think they will get caught)

    I wonder how viral a Tik Tok of "getting caught doing stupid shit" would be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nathan F (profile), 17 Dec 2021 @ 10:17am

    I wonder how viral a Tik Tok of "getting caught doing stupid shit" would be.

    Might do ok though it would be titled something like "Instant Karma for Dumb Bully" I'd wager.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2021 @ 10:30am

    The media is pulling a page from the Fox News playbook on how to sell overpriced pillows to Americans who won't be able to sleep after watching the fearmongering news the world is ending. Again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 17 Dec 2021 @ 2:55pm

      Re:

      "The media is pulling a page from the Fox News playbook"

      It will never cease to amaze me how some people think "the media" and "Fox News" are somehow separate things.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 17 Dec 2021 @ 12:05pm

    What a trick, 2 parts

    1 day more on a 2 week Vacation for CHRISTMAS.
    Yea.
    Then an absurd away to instigate something Even when nothing happens.
    AND others will reference this and we will get LOTS of this, for/against it.
    then the Kid the Screamed Wolf, action.
    SEE I TOLD YOU IT WOULD HAPPEN.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Dec 2021 @ 4:34pm

    'How dare you, it's OUR job to make killers famous!'

    Having the news freak out over the idea that kids might do something stupid for attention when every time Some Asshole shoots up a place they plaster their face and name on every tv they can and spend countless hours talking about them is just a wee bit hypocritical to say the least.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2021 @ 4:48pm

    Its funny, I read this tech dirt post this morning and I just noticed this post on the LAtimes home page. "L.A. schools on alert after threats of campus violence reportedly circulate on TikTok" https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-12-17/threats-of-school-violence-put-los-angeles-schoo ls-law-enforcement-on-high-alert

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Dec 2021 @ 6:54pm

    Now I don't use the tik of the toks so I am unsure of 1 little thing...

    Media report claiming the threats were made anonymously.

    I thought all the tikentokens had the username on the videos & while there are ways to be anonymous online most teenagers, despite being smarter than boomers, wouldn't bother (or know how) doing them. While an IP isn't a person locking it into a specific phone really makes it hard to be anonymous (given the huge data scooping happeneing every second of every day).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2021 @ 1:07pm

    Challenge

    Let's make up a "Don't be dumb" challenge and see what happens

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave (profile), 19 Dec 2021 @ 7:54am

    Because: Mainstream Media Wants Social Media Dead or Dumb

    Excellent that you caught this, I noticed too.

    This happens because the more social media is discredited, the more value old school media retains. And that's important because that value is deflating at an unbelievable rate.

    The collective strategy in my view is to highlight the dangers of low barrier publishing, as is the case with social media, and to accent its unreliability. That it also provides cheap content is just a side benefit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2021 @ 1:06pm

      Re: Because: Mainstream Media Wants Social Media Dead or Dumb

      Yeah - they are making their agenda and untrustworthiness very apparent. It is possible to have an agenda and be trustworthy - be transparent and make good faith arguments. They are transparent not from disclosure but ineptness.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 21 Dec 2021 @ 12:35am

        Re: Re: Because: Mainstream Media Wants Social Media Dead or Du

        Are you asking people to be Dumb, so that OTHERS explain?
        Or that Maybe the idiots doing it MIGHT explain the reasoning?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 21 Dec 2021 @ 12:39am

    All the world a stage, hope you get it,

    ASK something you should know, but leave it up to the Answer from the people.
    Decline to Answer, but have an anon, compete with alittle logic. "God said so". or refer to a site that Backs up the THING.
    Keep it up over and over... Anyone that read beyond that point CANT fight back, its like 20 people debating 1 person.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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