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TikTok Challenge closes schools in the US: what's going on

A spate of school shooting threats popping up on TikTok and other social media platforms forced some schools in the United States to close on December 16, while others stepped up their police presence. The publication told about this in more detail. Bloomberg.

Photo: Shutterstock

Threats generally do not mention specific schools, and local and federal authorities have stated that many of them do not inspire confidence. Nevertheless, the date was listed in the threats - December 17, and schools in Michigan, Washington, and other states temporarily left the children at home. Many videos feature textual warnings about an explosion or gunfire, without specifying schools, districts, or even states.

There have been nine school shootings and 235 so-called inactive shooting incidents this year, according to the Center for National Defense and Security, and counties and law enforcement say they take every warning seriously.

No known threats

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that while "there are no known specific threats," he spoke of the reports to the state attorney general and security personnel.

“We will work closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation and be prepared,” Murphy said.

Schools in Michigan, where a boy killed four students in late November, have closed all buildings in the face of new gunfire. Seattle police launched an investigation into two schools and closed one of them after employees reported the threats on social media.

On the subject: A dangerous new challenge spreads on TikTok: it can lead to a heart attack and even death

Thuel County, Utah said the trend appeared on TikTok as an option not to go to school. They said it has spread to other internet platforms such as Instagram and Facebook "and turned into something much more disturbing."

Educational institutions in the New York area were also affected. Pelham Public School in Westchester County has moved classes online due to such threats.

According to a press release on the department's Facebook page, in Glenview, Illinois, police considered the shooting and bombing threats spread on social media to be unreliable.

The Glenview School District operates as usual, but there are more police than usual.

Ashley Gonzalez, the chief of police for the Austin Independent School District in Texas, sent a letter to schools on December 17 warning of a "non-specific" shooting threat.

“These threats do not in any way affect any school in Austin and are considered part of a nationwide trend,” said Gonzalez, who nonetheless planned to improve security. “Unfortunately, we are seeing a trend of reposting messages that have nothing to do with our city, neighborhood or schools, and many of the threats end up being hoaxes.”

Problem content

TikTok, owned by ByteDance Ltd., is among several social media platforms that have been criticized for spreading malicious videos, especially among children. This year, teachers urged the company to intervene in a TikTok challenge to slap teachers.

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“This is not the first alarming 'problem' targeting students, teachers and the educational institution in general that has spread to TikTok,” said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, a union representing 3 million teachers. "Threats and trends like this on social media are very unsettling and not funny in any way."

TikTok said this week that it will change its algorithm to reduce problematic content. The tech company, whose app has over 1 billion users, said it is working with law enforcement to eliminate gunfire threats.

“We take even perceived threats seriously and are working with law enforcement to warn of possible violence in schools,” the company said in a statement.

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