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8 Oct, 2021 17:35

New ultraviolent ‘slap a teacher’ craze exposes failings in TikTok’s efforts to ban traumatic videos among impressionable teens

New ultraviolent ‘slap a teacher’ craze exposes failings in TikTok’s efforts to ban traumatic videos among impressionable teens

Violent assaults against defenceless victims caught on smartphones and shared online for amusement are no new thing, so why has TikTok not managed to come to terms with preventing these unacceptable and grossly offensive videos?

In this age of quantum leaps in technology and seemingly endless possibilities about what we can do with our smartphones nothing is really that novel. So, while disturbing, it’s not surprising to see a new craze of violent assault videos being recklessly shared among TikTok’s one billion users.

The latest ‘slap a teacher’ craze that has hit the US is really just a modern variation on a new platform of the teenage girl ‘p***y slapping’ that emerged in Australia four years ago and the ultraviolent ‘happy slapping’ that began in the UK in the early 2000s which begs the question: why is this still going on?

While many teens probably imagine their schoolteacher is a valid target for assault, these underpaid educators are also just husbands and wives, mums and dads, brothers and sisters like anyone else. But it seems dumb-as-a-rock 18-year-old Larianna Jackson wasn’t bothered by that as she launched an assault on the 64-year-old woman who happened to be her English teacher at Covington High School in Louisiana, leaving the poor woman needing hospital treatment.

And while we might tut-tut and suck our teeth, reassuring each other this sort of incident could never happen here, ahem, can I just remind you that it already has. And some time ago.

Because in 2004, the happy slapping craze resulted in the killing of David Morley, 37, whose death was filmed by then 14-year-old Chelsea Mahoney as she and three friends kicked and stomped on their victim until he died from a ruptured spleen.

Then in 2010, the same craze was also blamed for the death of 67-year-old Ekram Haque in London after an attack by two teenagers in front of his young granddaughter which they filmed before running away laughing.

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It cannot be too big an ask to expect TikTok, now the app du jour for streaming and sharing this nonsense, to be a bit more proactive about this new phase of randomly violent videos and if they refuse, then let’s do something about it.

Because on no level is this entertainment. Like happy slapping before it, this latest craze has the same modus operandi – a vicious unprovoked assault on an unsuspecting and defenceless victim is caught by accomplices on a smartphone camera and shared with the rest of the world via the internet – for laughs. 

While they might attempt to shift the blame, we must hold TikTok to account. When a video of a sucide went viral, the sharing service blamed a coordinated attack from the ‘dark web’ for spreading the traumatising clip. When accused of spreading content that glamorised eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, it issued an anodyne statement claiming the safety of its users was its top priority. And when it was found to be used by Islamic State terrorists to share propaganda, the PR department announced, “Content promoting terrorist organisations has absolutely no place on TikTok.”

TikTok makes all the right noises when it’s called out on these issues but it needs to do more in preventing them from happening in the first place. It’s no use taking a video down once it’s been viewed several million times. The damage is done. User data has already been gathered and, of course, the money already made.

If Bytedance is to be allowed to operate within a nation’s borders making billions in the process with just a hint of taxes extracted, then it needs to be more accountable, not just in financial terms but in the realm of social responsibility.

We can’t have massive, foreign-owned corporations disseminating ultraviolent videos among our youngsters, accountable to no one but themselves and left to police their own behaviour. It’s just a bonkers idea to even think that is acceptable.

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So let’s crack down on TikTok. Let’s hammer them with hefty fines for every video that promotes assault, terrorism, pornography, eating disorders and even suicide and keep hammering them until they receive the message and take preventative steps.

It makes no difference to me if TikTok is available in the UK, so if they feel the heat’s too much and simply up sticks and off, then so be it. That’s something I’d happily video, apply some snazzy filters and share with all my friends. Even if I don’t have that many.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.