Teachers Union Urges TikTok, Facebook, Other Big Tech to Stop Spread of Viral Challenges

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In a letter on Friday, the National Education Association asked tech companies to ‘put public safety over profit’.

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The letter points to the challenges and dangers facing teachers, students and families at the start of the current academic year, when many students are returning to class for the first time in more than a year and a half.

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Last month, in a viral TikTok challenge, students ransacked or robbed a school bathroom. Teachers now warn of a potential new challenge that dares students to slap teachers.

Also, protests over safety protocols such as the wearing of masks and the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and the Critical Race Theory have sometimes sparked controversy against school leaders, leading to harassment and intimidation of a group representing school boards- Has been motivated to seek federal assistance in managing acts of bullying. To the board members, teachers and students.

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“The online ‘trends’ and false information that has spread like wildfire across social media platforms – from theft of school property and killing school staff to conspiracy theories on curriculum and coronavirus protocols – have hit the target. have helped create a culture of fear and violence with teachers,” Ms Pringle wrote, according to a copy of the letter.

“Teachers are still working through a pandemic two years later,” she said in the letter. “We are all tired, stressed and so thin that it feels like we will crumble – and we now face increasing violence with no oversight by corporations and no accountability for the communities they harm. deliver.”

Representatives for TikTok, Facebook and Instagram did not respond to a request for comment on NEA’s letter. A Twitter representative said the company received the letter and plans to respond.

The letter follows public scrutiny in recent weeks over how Facebook handles its platform. A set of internal documents that led to Businesshala’s Facebook Files series uncovered research showing how harmful its social media platforms can be, especially to teens. Facebook has faced questions from the public, lawmakers on both sides and others about how its platform works and its impact on users and society.

Teachers say the level of viral challenges and anger over the Covid-19 mandate has been linked to the difficulties of the third pandemic school year. Many of the country’s more than 13,000 school districts that were closed for in-person learning for the past year have now reopened.

Some teachers say a return to routine has been a challenge for students, some of whom are holding school work or are emotionally affected by the pandemic.

Recently, teacher unions and school officials sought to get ahead of a rumored “slap a teacher challenge” as well as other alleged viral dares that could harm or harm teachers or schools. The origin of the “slap a teacher challenge” rumours is not known.

“Rumor of slapping a teacher is an insult to teachers everywhere,” Tiktok wrote in twitter post. “And while this is not a trend on TikTok, if at any point it appears, the content will be removed.”

The effort follows a viral challenge last month called “crooked chaat”, where students stole items or ransacked school bathrooms. That challenge had gained popularity on TikTok, and in mid-September, the company said it had removed the content and any associated hashtags or search results.

Police in Covington, LA, said Thursday they arrested an 18-year-old high school student after she allegedly punched a 64-year-old teacher, who is disabled. The Covington Police Department said the incident, which was recorded on video, may have been influenced by the rumored viral challenge.

Earlier this month, the Lancaster County School District in South Carolina said an elementary school student hit a teacher in the back of the head. The district suggested in a note to parents published on its Facebook page that the incident could be related to the challenge.

Teacher unions in Connecticut, California, South Carolina and Florida have recently warned about the pitfalls and consequences of potential challenges. Many unions say they are unaware of incidents in which students attacked their teachers, but they expected to outdo any possible violence.

The letter from the National Education Association also states that misinformation shared on social media platforms has “informed a small but violent group of radicalized adults who wrongly believe that racism has been reported at the undergraduate level.” courses being taught in K-12 public schools,” referencing the academic concept of critical race theory.

The letter also cited recent acts of harassment and intimidation towards teachers across the country over the COVID-19 safety protocols.

Earlier this week, in response to a request from a school board group, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to work with law enforcement to address the increase in threats.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said: He met TikTok representatives Later this week he sent a letter to the company urging them to identify ways to prevent dangerous challenges from occurring on the platform.

A TikTok spokesperson declined to comment on the letter and was not immediately available to comment on the meeting.

In an interview, Mr Tong said the vandalism at a Connecticut high school prompted by the “crooked licking” challenge created more widespread chaos that prompted officials to temporarily close the school last month.

He called social media a common thread in the extreme behavior or actions seen in schools or communities elsewhere.

“The ‘Dive Licks’ challenge was pretty bad and it’s not a big leap to say whether there are probably more to come,” Mr. Tong said.

Write to Jennifer Calfas at [email protected]

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