After Triggering Viral Video, TikTok Creators Take Matters Into Their Own Hands
A handful of TikTok creators have taken it upon themselves to use their platform to warn users after a video of a man dying by suicide went viral on the app. On Sunday night, an August 31 Facebook live video of Ronnie McNutt, a 33-year-old from Mississippi, began circulating on TikTok. It shows the Army veteran pulling out a gun and shooting himself while in front of his computer. It’s since made its way to TikTok’s For You page, where users may stumble upon it without warning or any knowledge of what they are about to watch. Because of this, users like @alluringskull and @jorobe are giving their followers tools to avoid the video on their personal feeds.
TikTok said in a statement that their systems have been “automatically flagging these clips for violating our policies” and “banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips.” However, uploaders have been attempting to find their way around these guidelines, secreting the video within benign clips of animals and influencers so it is harder to detect and catches viewers off-guard. As TikTok scrambles to find and remove all offending videos, prominent TikTokkers have taken matters into their own hands, stepping up to advise the community on how to avoid, report, and reach out about the clip.
“I’m about to show you a still from the video in case you haven’t seen it yet,” user @alluringskull says in a TikTok posted on Sunday that’s reached over one million people. “If you see this, pause the video, scroll away."
John Bell, who goes by @jorobe on the app, has similar advice.
“You can pause it, report it, and then scroll,” he says in a video posted Monday to over five million people. “Do not interact with the post in any other way.”
My video was muted on TikTok. Spread it here so people know how to avoid the video. Please RT this is important! pic.twitter.com/ucznlCSJgg— John Bell (@JohnBell1993) September 7, 2020
The creators’ advice is specifically geared towards slowing the video’s spread by playing against the algorithm, tricking TikTok into no longer putting the video on the For You page due to its lack of views and engagement.
The onus of suppressing and removing this video should not fall on TikTok’s users, but the platform’s community has a history of banding together for a larger cause. In May, @alluringskull was one of the creators who helped organize a “Blackout” on the app in response to what they say was TikTok’s unfair treatment towards Black creators via uneven community guidelines and possible “shadowbanning”—purposefully burying Black creators’ content in favor of white creators.
TikTok seemingly acknowledged these vigilantes in their statement regarding the recent triggering video, saying they “appreciate our community members who’ve reported content and warned others against watching, engaging, or sharing such videos.”
These creators are also directing their followers to resources. If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.