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TikTok says no 'credible threat' to rumored school violence 'trend'

The rumored trend sparked a number of school closures and an increased presence of police on some campuses on Friday.
Image: TikTok
 An attendee visits the TikTok booth at the 2019 smart expo in hangzhou, east China's zhejiang province, on Oct. 18, 2019.Costfoto / Barcroft Media via Getty Images file

TikTok on Friday reassured students and parents across the country that widely circulated warnings of possible gun violence in schools was "not a credible threat."

The platform made the announcement on Twitter amid widespread school closures and increased police presence on some campuses.

Here’s a look at why some law enforcement and school districts were panicked, and why they don't need to be at this time, according to TikTok.

What is the rumored trend/challenge?

The origins surrounding the vague social media challenge/trend are unclear. However, some school officials said the rumored content encouraged school violence in the form of bombings and shootings on Friday, Dec. 17.

The widespread panic comes amid a rise in TikTok trends that have proved worrisome to educators and parents. In the past few months, the platform has made efforts to stifle trends that violate its community guidelines and could lead to serious injury.

In September, TikTok banned content around the “devious licks” trend, in which students posted videos of items they allegedly stole from their schools. TikTok also recently removed the hashtag and videos of the milk crate challenge, in which people were climbing pyramids made of milk crates and often falling, which led to some injuries.

How did schools and parents respond?

While the rumored content did not seem to target specific schools, many district officials responded swiftly by ramping up security or canceling classes.

Schools in states like California, Minnesota, Missouri and Texas announced closures. Other schools — in states including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania — issued statements announcing an increase in police presence for Friday as a precaution.

Some school officials also urged parents and students to not share posts about violence.

“Even if they are not credible threats, they can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for our students, families, and staff,” Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “Creating or sharing such posts can also lead to criminal charges. We ask our families to monitor their children’s social media activity and speak with them about proper behavior online.”

A handful of parents took to social media to voice their concerns, with some saying they plan to have their children stay at home on Friday.

"Yea I won't panic cause my baby is staying home tomorrow," one parent wrote in a tweet.

Marci Peru, a mom of two daughters, told TODAY Parents that her 16-year-old stayed home after the teen said her friends feared going in after someone on TikTok allegedly said that bombs would be going off in schools.

“She’s emotionally sensitive to this stuff,” Peru said “It wasn’t the fear that it would happen, but why put her through the chaos and confusion?”

Why officials say there's no need to worry

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Friday tweeted that it did not have “any information indicating any specific, credible threats to schools” but urged communities to “remain alert.”

TikTok also shared in a series of tweets that it has not found any evidence of content posted on its platform.

“What we find are videos discussing this rumor and warning others to stay safe,” it said. “Local authorities, the FBI, and DHS have confirmed there’s no credible threat, so we’re working to remove alarmist warnings that violate our misinformation policy.”

The platform went on to say that if it does find content promoting violence, it will be removed and reported to the authorities.

It urged people to avoid making assertions based on unconfirmed facts.

"Media reports have been widespread and based on rumors rather than facts, and we are deeply concerned that the proliferation of local media reports on an alleged trend that has not been found on the platform could end up inspiring real world harm," TikTok wrote.

The platform also provided a link to its safety center, "to help people assess this kind of content."