TikTok EXPOSED: Platform recommends videos about serial killers and guns to teen users
TikTok recommended content promoting firearms within twelve hours of opening an account for a 13-year-old
TikTok is reportedly sharing videos promoting body armor and weapons content to its young viewership, according to a recent investigation by Raw Story.
When a Wall Street Journal report alleged last month that the social media app was serving drug and bondage videos to teenage accounts, the platform said it "in no way represents the behavior and viewing experience of a real person." A spokeswoman insisted that "protecting minors is vitally important" and that TikTok has taken "industry-first steps to promote a safe and age-appropriate experience for teens." However, Raw Story has now deemed that the TikTok experience for a teenager who dwelled on law enforcement content was "anything but safe".
According to the eyebrow-raising report, TikTok recommended content promoting firearms within twelve hours of opening an account for a 13-year-old. The platform was also accused of promoting body armor and rifle mounts designed to improve the accuracy of weapons, and also providing links to websites where they are sold.
Meanwhile, the report said TikTok also suggested content about serial killers that described the murder of a naked 14-year-old. As Raw Story conducted its investigation over a period of several days, the app reportedly played videos that young users uploaded of their failed suicide attempts, including one girl who appeared to be in a hospital. The outlet stated it will discuss TikTok's promotion of suicidal content in a fresh report later this week.
Owned by Beijing-based firm Byte Dance, TikTok provides a feed of user-uploaded videos, recommending additional content based on the user's perceived preference. While the app is mostly inundated with harmless content like people engaging in funny trends and pet videos, it also tends to share extreme videos about the type of content the user watches.
Raw Story's investigation simulated a 13-year-old user interested in videos of police, servicemembers and hunting. According to the report, TikTok recommended hunting videos within two hours. In the next three hours, the platform served "flexible" rifle armor content. After five hours, it suggested the user consider buying Unity Tactical's Fast Mount, a device used to improve the accuracy of firearms. According to Unity Tactical's website, the mount comes in handy "especially while wearing tactical gear, night vision goggles, gas masks, helmets, and plate carriers." That said, both profiles promoting body armor and rifle equipment featured links to websites that sold those items.
"By the time bedtime rolled around — 10 pm for our eighth-grader — TikTok served up videos about serial killers," Raw Story's John Byrne wrote. "By clicking the profile, our 13-year-old found graphic descriptions of murders committed by convicted murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, including the killing of a 14-year-old who was found naked in the street by police and an 18-year-old 'dismembered and disposed of… in the woods behind his parent's home'."
According to the report, many of the videos appeared to violate the platform's community guidelines, which bars content that "promotes, normalizes, or glorifies extreme violence or suffering" and "depiction, promotion, or trade of firearms, ammunition, firearm accessories, or explosive weapons." But Raw Story found the "depiction or promotion of all four types of prohibited weapons products." That said, it's worth noting that the guidelines also state how weapons "carried by a police officer, in a military parade, or used in a safe and controlled environment such as a shooting range may be allowed" on the platform.