Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he has a “serious concern” over the safety of children on social media after a “disgraceful” video went viral this week on TikTok.
He hit out at the social media giant, calling for more action to protect young Australians and demanded the “very damaging” video circulating on the app, as well as others, be taken down.
Parents and children have been warned to be wary of footage showing a man in the United States taking his own life.
The video was originally posted to Facebook but is now circulating on TikTok, with predators reportedly using innocent clips of animals to lure children into watching the suicide video.
The prime minister said the laws and standards of behaviour for the real world must also apply online.
“No child should be exposed to horrifying content like this,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison shared his own video to his social channels to get his message across.
“Those who run these organisations have a responsibility to those who are watching it,’ he said.
“Platforms like TikTok need to put in more resources to detect and tear down this sort of harmful content. That is their responsibility.”
PM takes action to ensure ‘these things don’t happen’
Mr Morrison said Australia’s eSafety commissioner was engaging closely with TikTok to get the video removed and that “these sorts of things don’t happen”.
A spokeswoman for TikTok said moderators were detecting and removing the video as people tried to upload it.
“We are banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips,” she told AAP.
“We appreciate our community members who’ve reported content and warned others against watching, engaging or sharing such videos.”
TikTok has also been accused of censoring political and social topics such as LGBTI issues and the crackdown in Uighurs in China.
Tiktok censoring content, report finds
A new report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute describes the video-sharing platform as a powerful political actor with global reach.
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It found the Chinese-owned company censored topics and suppressed content to make it harder to find.
According to TikTok, some of the terms ASPI highlighted were restricted due to local laws.
TikTok has vehemently denied it shares information with the Chinese government, a security issue that has prompted US President Donald Trump to urge the sale of its American division to Microsoft or face being banned.
Mr Morrison has previously ruled out banning TikTok but said intelligence agencies would continue to monitor the popular short video app.
By Tom Flanagan
Why Aussie schools are telling parents to keep their children off TikTok today
Australian schools have issued serious warnings urging parents and caregivers to keep their kids off social media after a distressing video was shared and widely distributed.
The clip was reportedly live-streamed to Facebook on August 31 but made it to other social media sites including Instagram and TikTok where it has subsequently been re-uploaded several times.
Schools on Tuesday warned parents and carers to keep their children away from social media until all traces of the video – that depicted a man taking his own life – were removed.
There are reports that people have re-uploaded the video and displayed images of puppies and kittens at its beginning to lure social media users into watching.
A similar message was distributed on Facebook by many schools across the country.
“The clip is extremely graphic and has yet to be moderated. Should this image appear in any of your feeds SCROLL past. Please advise all older students to do the same.”
The post continued, saying caregivers were strongly recommended to keep their children offline today (Tuesday) “and heavily supervise all social media interactions until this content is removed”.
“Check with your children to determine if they have viewed this clip. They are likely to be extremely distressed,” the post read.
Many schools directed its community to mental health service resources including Kids Helpline, Headspace, Lifeline and BeyondBlue.
TikTok addressed the video in several posts on Tuesday, saying it was aware of the clips and its systems “have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our Community Guidelines”.
“We’re removing content & banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips, and we appreciate our community members who’ve reported content & warned others against watching, engaging, or sharing such videos on any platform out of respect for the individual & their loved ones,” another TikTok post read.
Many people expressed that the warnings had come too late having not had a chance to remove their kids’ social media before they came across the video.
“My daughter didn’t have a choice when she saw it. The video was presented as a kitten video. Started with kittens etc but then it cut to the scene,” one mum wrote in response to TikTok.
“She has severe mental health issues & seeing that sent her into a breakdown,” she added.
By Brooke Rolfe