While the rest of the world lives in fear over the spread of the novel coronavirus, several TikTok teens have been capitalizing on the current global pandemic for the chance to go viral.
Canadian TikTok user Zach Oldham, with username @kidstoopid, posted a video on the app claiming his classmate and friend was infected with the COVID-19 virus. In Oldham’s TikTok, he features the allegedly infected boy who is wearing a mask and coughing into trash cans as he walks through a hallway. The video even proceeds to show a screenshot of an article announcing the “first presumptive cause of coronavirus confirmed in British Columbia,” suggesting Oldham’s friend was the individual written about.
The clip also shows Oldham dialing 9-1-1, although it’s not shown whether he actually places the call. “Our friend was being monitored for Coronavirus,” the text in the video reads. “He had to call 911 if he started coughing violently. Turns out he had it.” Oldham adds the ever-awkward grimacing emoji to the end of his statement.
The clip goes back to the article, showing a picture of his allegedly infected friend onscreen. “That’s him,” another blurb of text in the video reads. “Not a joke…” Oldham also captions his video. He even uses popular TikTok sound-byte “Oh no! (I got a disease)” by yungtubesock as the musical backdrop to his hoax.
Spokesman for the British Columbia Department of Health, Stephen May, confirmed to The Daily Beast that Oldham’s TikTok, posted in January, was fake. The real person who was the first to be infected was a man in his forties. May also pointed out that Oldham altered the article to have a picture of his friend in it for the video. “The actual story doesn’t have a picture of that person in it,” he told The Daily Beast.
Still, despite being fake, Oldham’s TikTok received 4.1 million views, 817,000 likes, and 5,100 comments.
TikTok has taken the video down because it aims to spread false information. “We remove deliberate attempts to deceive the public,” a TikTok spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
But this hasn’t stopped Oldham from creating more coronavirus content. The day after he posted his hoax, he posted another video showing that because his friend got diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, he and his other friends were essentially quarantined by teachers at their school.
According to The Daily Beast, May is highly skeptical about Oldham’s claim, considering his previous video turned out the be fake. However, this particular video by Oldham has yet to be confirmed as false.
To combat the spread of misinformation, TikTok has linked every COVID-19-related video to its own coronavirus resource hub. “Learn the facts about COVID-19” the link reads at the bottom of every video mentioning the novel coronavirus.
The hub is complete with a Q and A provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). Additionally, it features the TikTok accounts of the WHO as well as the humanitarian organizations of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations Children’s’ Fund (UNICEF).