While TikTok may be known as the birthplace of many viral challenges, the social media platform is also the center of a recent uptick in racist hate speech, particularly from its younger users. While their original TikTok uploads don’t gain traction, their racist behavior causes their videos to go viral on other platforms.
This month, multiple TikTok users were put on blast across social media for expressing racist sentiments in their TikTok videos. Notably, two teens in Georgia, Stephanie Freeman and Jeffrey Hume were expelled from their high school after a TikTok video they made went viral on Twitter. In it, they used many racist stereotypes and mentioned the n-word.
A classmate (Twitter user @camden52801) uploaded the video to Twitter to “show how racist the kids at [her] school are.” While the video had been removed from TikTok and got limited visibility in-app, it quickly went viral on Twitter. To date, it has over one million views, 196,800 likes and 70,000 retweets. Unfortunately, it was one of many TikToks featuring racism in recent weeks.
Okay I know this probably isn’t going to get a lot of views but I just thought I’d show everyone how racist the kids at my school are. The girl’s name is Stephanie Freeman and she’s a senior at Carrollton High School. pic.twitter.com/jjsLtToSLH— Camden (@camden52801) April 17, 2020
“TikTok is such a mixed bag. Although many students report that there’s a lot of uplifting and entertaining content on the app, they also say there’s content that ranges from simply embarrassing to downright inappropriate or mean,” Diana Graber, author of Raising Humans in a Digital World and Cyberwise co-founder, tells Parentology.
TikTok’s Actions Against Hate Speech
A spokesperson from TikTok tells Parentology over email, “We are committed to promoting a safe and positive app environment for our community. As we make clear in our Community Guidelines, we do not permit hate speech or bullying. The behavior in question is a violation of our guidelines, and we remove any such reported content from the platform. To keep our users safe, we offer a slate of safety tools and features to help users take control of their online experience, including ways to report inappropriate content, limit and filter comments, and block users.”
TikTok is actively monitoring trends that have recently been associated with racist hate speech such as the “how’s my pose/form” challenge, through which teens bait certain groups only to reflect racist stereotypes associated with those groups. TikTok also recently updated their parental controls to curb the spread of harmful content on the platform.
While TikTok is taking action and removing content violating its policy against hate speech, TikTok videos are being shared and downloaded on other social media platforms.
Y’all do the same with this girl. Let’s find her school 🙂 pic.twitter.com/y9UnQmV66g— Manal ⁷(منال) closed (@Manal_nala) April 19, 2020
Life After Going Viral: Expulsions, Address Leaks and More
It doesn’t take much for racist TikToks to go viral on other social media platforms. TikTok videos can be embedded into posts on other social media platforms, or downloaded directly to be uploaded on other sites. With the latter option, or screen recording, users can’t do much even after deleting their initial upload once someone has a copy.
From there, people find the TikTok users personal information: full names, the school they attend and even more personal information like their home address. Social media users take it upon themselves to reach out to employers and faculty at these TikTok users’ jobs and schools. Stephanie Freeman, for example, was quickly identified from the tweet and people reached out directly to her school.
Despite these consequences making headlines, teens and young adults are still uploading content involving racism and hate speech. Graber brings up the concept of “online disinhibition,” where one says or does something online they would never say or do in real life. The increase in screentime during school lockdowns allows even more room for this.
” I think this challenging time finds parents so busy online with their own work and keeping up with breaking news, that it is more difficult than ever for them to stay on top of what their children are doing and seeing online,” Graber says.
She emphasizes the need for parents to reach out to their kids about what type of content they are interacting with online — whether it be what they are uploading, viewing, or sharing in order to protect their digital reputation.