Yesterday, Newsweek reported that TikTok users were warning each other that a group of men had been discussing the 24th of April as a national day of carrying out rape and sexual assault.
This worrying online trend was reportedly started by a group of up to six men who claimed that all sexual assault was legal on this day, while encouraging their followers to commit these crimes.
Several other news outlets have begun to report on the story and many TikTok users have responded by producing videos to warn and advise others to be vigilant on the day.
We had an in-depth look at these rumours and found no contemporary evidence to support them. What we did find, however, was a significant number of videos, warnings and commentary being posted in response to the rumours.
TikTok says they have not found any evidence of videos promoting a ‘national rape day’ and have issued the following statement:
“While we have not found evidence on our platform of any videos related to this subject, our safety team is remaining vigilant, and we will remove content that violates our policies.”
As experts on the online environment, we know that online chatter can feed these rumours and enhance their viral distribution.
Given the fact that young people may hear this rumour and not know whetherit istrue, we think it’s important that parents, carersand safeguarding professionals understand the following issues.
At this point, there is no evidence to support this rumour.
However, you should also be aware that these types of viral rumours may in some cases incite inappropriate behaviour, pranksand the spreading of further false information.
Some posts have encouraged people to carry ‘weapons’ to protect themselves. If you hear discussions of this you should reaffirm that children should never carry weapons. This could put children at risk of prosecution. Carrying an offensive weapon is a serious crime and one in which the burden of proof switches to the person in possession of the weapon.
Try to avoid sharing any stories on social media related to this trend. This can create more panic and concern.
If the children in your care mention this issue, you should use the opportunity to talk to them about the nature of online rumours and how they can block and report any content they find distressing.
If children describe fear and anxiety, you should discuss a safety plan, which includes:
Sticking to busy well–lit areas
Staying in the company of a friend/s
Arranging a lift with parents or carers or a pre–plannedtaxi from a reputable firm.
You couldrecommend that theyshare their location on their phone with their parent or carer so they can be tracked on their wayhome.
Ask them if they know the safe places in the area they are going to.These places can include police stations,hospitals, and shops where they could easily ask an adult for help.
Reinforce the danger of using alcohol or other drugs and advise that that if they everfeel in danger, they should call 999.
Discussions around viral rumours are common – for more information on reporting, blocking or configuring safety settings on TikTok and a range of other apps and platforms, use Our Online Safety Centre.