US on alert after rumors of school shootings on social media

The United States was on heightened alert for school violence on Friday after rumors of potential shootings spread on TikTok, although authorities said no credible threats were found.

Some schools – already on the alert after a recent shooting – have sent warnings to parents and stepped up security, with a number of districts also canceling day classes.

“The White House and federal law enforcement are closely monitoring threats of violence in schools circulating on social networks,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Twitter.

TikTok said it was working with law enforcement to investigate reported videos discussing an upcoming school shooting, but had “found nothing”.

“Local authorities, the FBI and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) have confirmed that there is no credible threat,” the company said, “so we are working to suppress scare warnings that violate our disinformation policy “.

“If we discovered a promotion of violence on our platform, we would remove it and report it to law enforcement,” he added.

The FBI said it was investigating suspected threats, and DHS said in a tweet that it had “no information indicating specific and credible threats against schools.”

Less than three weeks after the last mass shooting at a U.S. high school – which killed four students in Oxford, Michigan – school administrators were quick to respond to the rumors.

“Reports are circulating that today could be a day of attacks on schools. The DC administration and police are very aware of this and are watching closely, ”a message sent to parents from a school in Washington said Friday morning.

The Pennsbury School District in Pennsylvania told parents there would be an increased police presence even if they “don’t believe the threat is credible.”

Psaki said that “today is another reminder of the number of children and parents who live in fear of school shootings or violence. It is unacceptable.”

TikTok, one of the most popular social media services with school-aged children, has previously been criticized for allowing the posting of short videos inciting people to do risky, harmful and illegal acts.

Earlier this year, the viral video for the “Devious Licks” challenge encouraged students to vandalize bathrooms in schools and make them into copied videos on TikTok.

This has led to numerous cases of minor destruction of school property across the country.

At the time, TikTok said it was taking steps to remove the videos and minimize their spread “to discourage such behavior.”

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, an anti-gun violence nonprofit, at least 149 school shootings have taken place in the United States so far this year, killing 32 and injuring 94.

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.

“Gun violence is not the subject of jokes or pranks. All threats must be taken seriously, ”they said in a statement.

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