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TikTok Creators Say They Are Being Bullied And The Company Isn’t Helping

Features on the app and abuse from others are apparently causing waves of harassment and bullying for TikTok creators.

Posted on November 1, 2018, at 6:11 a.m. ET

TikTok users are complaining that in-app harassment and a general wave of dislike toward them are resulting in online bullying.

It has hit the point where the bullying on tik tok is seriously making me lose faith in humanity. Like these are fucking children pretending to kill themselves or me... seriously what is social media doing to kids... here’s a few of the worst ones (a thread) https://t.co/mnPIJuRLwZ

Natalia, a 21-year-old from Orange County, California, who asked for her surname not to be used, put together a thread of TikTok abuse after someone pretended to hang themselves to one of her videos via the app’s Duet feature.

The feature allows users to do a side-by-side response to another user’s video. BuzzFeed News has reached out to the user simulating the hanging in Natalia’s video for comment.

“I’ve been on the app since about May earlier this year, back when it was just Musical.ly,” Natalia said. “I got it because I really liked the way you could edit as you record videos; like, I was really inspired by the cool transitions.”

However, she said that about a month ago, the supportive platform became increasingly full of harassment and threats via the app’s Duet feature, messages, and comments.

“Being gay and a furry, I’m used to this type of stuff and just let it roll off my shoulder, delete the comment, block the users,” she said.

“I try not to let the videos affect me personally, but when I have literally hundreds of videos of children pretending to drink bleach, hang themselves, shoot themselves, and telling me to commit suicide, it starts to get very disturbing.”

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for TikTok said promoting a safe environment in-app is their top priority,

“Promoting a safe and positive app environment is our top priority, and we have a number of measures in place to protect against misuse. These include privacy settings that allow users to control who can create duets with them or comment on their videos; users can also choose to make their account private so they can restrict their content to approved followers only. We also offer in-app reporting, and our moderation team may remove inappropriate content and terminate accounts that violate our Terms of Service. Please see our Safety Centre for more info.”

Natalia isn’t the only user who says they have experienced abuse via the Duet feature.

Asher Crane, a 19-year-old from Washington state, said that she received similar abuse to Natalia — including the above duet in which a user pretended to suffocate themselves to her video — but had trouble stopping it or even flagging it to TikTok.“Twice I’ve received duets where the person put a belt around their neck and hung it from their ceiling fan,” she said.“It disturbs me mostly because I don’t know what happens after the video ends. Sometimes it looks pretty convincing. It’s difficult to report videos like that because the options about what you can report and can’t report are limited. I’m never sure what to report them for. So usually I just block whoever did it.”
TikTok

Asher Crane, a 19-year-old from Washington state, said that she received similar abuse to Natalia — including the above duet in which a user pretended to suffocate themselves to her video — but had trouble stopping it or even flagging it to TikTok.

“Twice I’ve received duets where the person put a belt around their neck and hung it from their ceiling fan,” she said.

“It disturbs me mostly because I don’t know what happens after the video ends. Sometimes it looks pretty convincing. It’s difficult to report videos like that because the options about what you can report and can’t report are limited. I’m never sure what to report them for. So usually I just block whoever did it.”

TikTok does feature ways to prevent harassment — the app allows users to turn off the Duet feature, but many dislike doing this as it removes the opportunity for positive interactions.

A newly launched feature, React, also poses the same issue. Users can also lock their account and make themselves unsearchable, but find that these tools can stop their profile from growing. “Just as often as I get hate duets, I also get duets from fans and other cosplayers,” said Crane about her reasoning for keeping the feature on.When they do report abuse, users find that content either stays up or just keeps coming, meaning they spend more of their time reporting content than creating it.
TikTok

A newly launched feature, React, also poses the same issue. Users can also lock their account and make themselves unsearchable, but find that these tools can stop their profile from growing.

“Just as often as I get hate duets, I also get duets from fans and other cosplayers,” said Crane about her reasoning for keeping the feature on.

When they do report abuse, users find that content either stays up or just keeps coming, meaning they spend more of their time reporting content than creating it.

@tiktok_us you should do two things to change your app. Make a duet side button so we can see all duets, and let us approve of duets that people make of us. The sexual harrassment and bullying is messed up.

Interesting to see the Duet feature on @tiktok_us quickly transform into a bullying and harassment tool. And on top of that, see these posts get promoted into “For You” feeds. If they don’t fix this soon, the platform will turn very abusive, fast.

Interesting to see the Duet feature on @tiktok_us quickly transform into a bullying and harassment tool. And on top of that, see these posts get promoted into “For You” feeds. If they don’t fix this soon, the platform will turn very abusive, fast.

The increased abuse on TikTok is presumed to be linked to a growing backlash toward the app, which some see as corny or embarrassing.

The app has become a frequent target for hate across social media. Crane said that last year, when the app was still known as Musical.ly, she became the target of harassment after one of her videos was used by PewDiePie in a video titled, “Stop Ruining Rick and Morty”.

“My username wasn’t censored on any of the TikToks he used, so people were led directly to my account. What ensued was about four months of intense cyberbullying. I changed my username in an attempt to slow it, but it really didn’t help. I was receiving threats,” she said. “The number of times I was told to kill myself in those months was beyond countability.”

Crane says she knows many other users who have been through a similar experience to her, who have permanently deleted accounts because of abuse.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to PewDiePie for comment.

Some of those receiving abuse worry that influencers such as PewDiePie are normalizing dark behavior for children.

“It wasn’t until the duet videos of children pretending to literally kill themselves or me that really started to shed light on the kind of community TikTok has grown for itself,” said Natalia.

“The massive amount of kids on there are more “monkey see monkey do,” so the constant negative influence on the app mixed with a large amount of children too young to even be on the app in the first place, is a recipe for disaster.”

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