TikTok tries to remove widely shared suicide clip

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter

TikTok logo on screen.

image copyrightGetty Images

Video-sharing site TikTok is struggling to take down clips showing a man killing himself.

The footage, which has been circulating on the platform for several days, originated on Facebook and has also been shared on Twitter and Instagram.

TikTok is hugely popular with young people – and many have reported coming across the video and being traumatised by the content.

The app said it would ban accounts repeatedly uploading clips.

‘Warned others’

“Our systems have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our policies against content that displays, praises, glorifies, or promotes suicide,” a representative said.

“We appreciate our community members who’ve reported content and warned others against watching, engaging or sharing such videos on any platform, out of respect for the person and their family.”

Facebook told BBC News: “We removed the original video from Facebook last month, on the day it was streamed, and have used automation technology to remove copies and uploads since that time.

“Our thoughts remain with Ronnie’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

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‘My daughter could have post traumatic stress disorder’

TikTok phone

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On Tuesday, Brenda’s 14-year-old daughter came running down the stairs. She was covering her mouth, crying and saying she was going to be sick.

“She was in such a state, shaking like a leaf and properly sobbing,” Brenda, who lives near Edinburgh, told the BBC.

“I have never seen her that distressed. It was horrific and took ages to get the words out of her.”

Brenda explained that her daughter had seen the suicide video after it appeared within the recommended clips of TikTok’s For You section.

“She was scrolling through songs and funny videos when a bearded man in a white shirt appears behind a desk,” the mother recalled, saying shortly after he was seen to kill himself.

“I have heard about trolling and nasty things but this tops it all. I phoned the police but they reminded me that it is not their job to police the internet.

“My daughter was in a state of shock, still is in a state of shock and this could stay with her for months.”

Since the incident, she added, her daughter had slept with the light on and kept reliving the images she had seen. She added that her daughter felt scared to leave the house and was missing a day of school as a result.

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Sensationalising self-harm

It is reported that some users are sharing the video, disguised behind images of kittens or other content. Others have put together their own videos warning about the content and urging people to delete it.

TikTok’s algorithms often recommend content from people not directly followed by a user.

Several people have streamed their suicides on Facebook Live since its 2015 launch.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, has also faced criticism that the platform shares content sensationalising self-harm and suicide.

After the death of Molly Russell, in 2017, her father said Instagram had “helped kill his daughter”.

The BBC has information on what to do if children see something upsetting online

here

For information and support on mental health and suicide, access the BBC Action Line.

Related Topics

  • Facebook

  • TikTok
  • Suicide prevention
  • Social media

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