The FBI said it was investigating an apparent threat of school shootings on the popular social media platform TikTok when schools across the country sent warnings to parents on Friday.
School districts and law enforcement downplayed the credibility of videos discussing a “school shooting challenge” circulating on TikTok and other media, claiming there would be more school gun attacks and bombings around the country on Friday.
TikTok said there was no single video that posed a threat, but instead others that discussed it as a rumor.
But many schools sent out messages to parents when the apparent threat came less than three weeks after the recent mass shooting in a U.S. high school left four students dead in Oxford, Michigan.
“Information is circulating that today may be a day of attacks on schools. The administration and DC police are very aware of this and are keeping a close eye on it,” it said in a message sent to parents from a school in Takoma Park in Washington.
Pennsylvania’s Pennsylvania School District told parents there would be an increased police presence around school buildings, though they “do not believe the threat is credible.”
TikTok said it was investigating, but said what it found were videos discussing the alleged threat on its platform, rather than any direct threat.
“We have exhaustively searched for content that promotes violence in schools today, but have still found nothing. What we find are videos that discuss this rumor and warn others to stay safe,” it said.
“Local authorities, the FBI and DHS have confirmed that there is no credible threat, so we are working to remove alarming warnings that violate our misinformation policy,” it said.
“If we found violence promotion on our platform, we would remove and report it to law enforcement.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was investigating the threat.
“The FBI takes all potential threats seriously. We work regularly with our law enforcement partners to establish the credibility of any threats,” the statement said.
TikTok, one of the most popular social media services with school-age children, has already come under fire for allowing the broadcast of short videos challenging people to risky, harmful and illegal acts.
Earlier this year, the viral “Devious Licks” challenge video urged students to vandalize bathrooms in schools and make copycat TikTok videos of it.
This led to several cases of mostly much less destruction of school properties around the country.
At the time, TikTok said it was in the process of removing videos and minimizing their spread “to counteract such behavior.”
The Everytown for Gun Safety group has counted at least 149 school shootings so far this year with 32 deaths and 94 wounded.
Sandy Hook Promise, a group formed in response to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, condemned the alleged threat.
“A national TikTok challenge promotes school shootings on December 17. Gun violence is not a subject of jokes or pranks. All threats must be taken seriously,” they said in a statement.
(With the exception of the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)