A graphic video of a man committing suicide spread across TikTok early this week, and the company is still working to remove it. Originating on Facebook Live, the clip was uploaded onto TikTok over the weekend and began to take root in users' algorithmic recommendations.
While the video first made the jump from Facebook in full, some TikTok users have now spliced it into unrelated videos so that other people view the clip without intending to when it pops up on the "For You" page. On TikTok, the For You page serves as the front page of the app, feeding users a stream of content tailored just for them.
"On Sunday night, clips of a suicide that had originally been livestreamed on Facebook circulated on other platforms, including TikTok," a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement. "Our systems, together with our moderation teams, have been detecting and removing these clips for violating our policies against content that displays, praises, glorifies, or promotes suicide."
TikTok will ban any account that makes multiple attempts to upload the clip. The company expressed appreciation for community members taking action to report it and spread the word and reminded users that mental health hotlines are available within the app and the company's safety hub. The situation is a particularly disturbing strain of trolling, as surprising users of all ages with an extremely graphic video could result in very real mental health consequences for anyone who ends up viewing it.
Graphic scenes of violence, sometimes broadcast live, have plagued social networks over the years and no solution has proven effective at keeping those videos from an audience. After a gunman broadcast a mass shooting at a New Zealand mosque last year, Facebook disallowed previous platform rule breakers from using Facebook Live. That rule change was not enough to stop the user from live streaming his own death last month.
TikTok's community moved to police itself as the video circulated, issuing warnings to followers to stay vigilant for the clip, which begins by showing a man with long hair and a beard on the phone seated at a desk. To play it safe, it's not a bad idea to take a break from watching anything from users you don't know until TikTok manages to thoroughly remove the disturbing clip from the platform.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. International resources are available here.