The challenge makes light of Floyd’s death in an encounter with Minneapolis police last week, an event that has ignited unrest and protests around the world. Now, net users are calling out the hateful trend, as some participants face legal consequences, and platforms rush to scrub the challenge from their feeds.
Making Light of a Tragedy
The challenge involves two people recreating Floyd’s death, with one kneeling on the neck of the other. The Daily Mail reports that it has been most popular with white teens, although others have also joined in.
According to the Mail, the teens who shared the first image from the challenge to social media tagged it with the location of Chardon, Ohio, prompting an investigation from the local school district. However, they were unable to identify the teens depicted in the image. Chardon police have theorized that the post was intentionally tagged with an incorrect location.
“We find this post to be offensive in celebrating the death of a human being under these, or any circumstances,” Chardon School District Superintendent Michael Hanlon said in a statement. “And we want you to be aware that we have researched the post and have not found any connection to Chardon Schools or our students at this time.”
Since then, many more screenshots of pictures from the challenge have popped up online, often posted by users expressing disgust.
“As if what’s going on isn’t sad enough, people are really making this a form of humor and entertainment,” one Twitter user said, according to KUTV news.
“This makes me sick and sad,” another Twitter user said. “These kids will grow up to be even worse! It’s not funny, it’s not a joke or a trendy thing to do! Little baby racists grow up to be big ones!”
Outrage over the challenge has led to negative consequences for some participants. In Missouri, two high school seniors lost spots at the colleges they planned to attend, thanks to a video of one mockingly kneeling on the other’s neck while she yelled, “I can’t breathe!,” the Daily Mail reports.
“Given the similarity to the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the video is both shocking and disturbing,” said University of Missouri System President Mun Choi in an email to the campus community. “University leaders and I remain committed to combating discrimination and racism in all its forms.”
Meanwhile, police arrested three UK teens on hate crime charges after the boys posted a picture for the challenge.
“We can confirm we are investigating after an image was shared on social media which showed two men imitating the recent death of US citizen George Floyd,” a police statement read. “An investigation was launched and yesterday (Sunday) officers arrested two males aged 19 and another male aged 18 on suspicion of sending communications causing anxiety and distress.”
Social Media Pushes Back
LATEST NEWS: White teens start disgusting ‘George Floyd Challenge’ on social media by posing for photos while kneeling on their friends’ necks. The participants, who are mostly male, are seen smiling in the photos showing them kneeling down on their friend’s necks. pic.twitter.com/pTJlBftkQW— Dave Vescio (@DaveVescio) June 3, 2020
Social media platforms are also taking action to remove the offensive posts. A spokesman for Facebook told the New York Post that the company was aware of the challenge, and were removing the posts for “encouraging participation in a high-risk viral challenge.”
Facebook and Twitter have both banned the hashtag, with the latter telling Business Insider, “We’re taking action [on] tweets encouraging or promoting this as well as tweets that condone or justify this behavior.” However, the platform said it will allow posts denouncing the challenge, adding a warning for sensitive media.
TikTok has taken a similar approach in allowing videos with the hashtag, so long as they denounce the offensive challenge. Currently, the page for the hashtag is filled with posts honoring Floyd while dragging participants in the disgusting viral trend.