Statement on abuse of teachers in posts on TikTok

11/11/2021
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, commenting on reports of the abuse of teachers in posts on TikTok.
 
Commenting on reports of the abuse of teachers in posts on TikTok, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

Over the past couple of weeks, school staff have suffered disgraceful abuse through messages and imagery posted on the social media platform TikTok. We do not know how widespread this is but we have received over 50 reports, and we suspect there are many more. 

“These posts are often defamatory and offensive, and some are homophobic. Schools tell us that they have asked TikTok to remove them but TikTok has often failed to act despite these posts clearly breaching the platform’s community guidelines.

“This material is extremely distressing for the staff who are targeted, and the young people who are posting it are involved in behaviour which could lead to them being excluded from school and, in extreme cases, being the subject of a police investigation.

“We have written to TikTok to ask it to proactively prevent this material being posted, to respond immediately to requests to remove such posts, and to request a meeting about this issue. We have also spoken to the governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“TikTok has replied to us to say it is investigating the issue and that it is using a combination of technologies and moderation teams to identify and remove content or accounts that violate its community guidelines. It says it has acted against a large number of accounts already. It has also offered to meet with us to discuss its response in more detail.

“We welcome this action and hope this matter can be resolved swiftly.

“However, this in our view reinforces the urgent need for regulation of social media platforms. Schools have had to spend valuable time endeavouring to have this content removed, and dealing with the fallout, when they are also having to cope with coronavirus-related disruption and help children catch up with lost learning. 

“Social media platforms should be legally responsible for ensuring they have processes in place which prevent offensive and abusive material from being posted in the first place
.”