TikTok ‘frenzies’ fuelling anti-social behaviour are putting a strain on over-stretched public services, police and teachers’ union leaders are warning.
The frenzies – where TikTok drives disproportionate amounts of engagement to potentially disturbing topics – are said to have led to obsessions with the murder of four students in the US state of Idaho that led to innocent people being falsely accused.
There has also been the suggestion TikTok fanned the flames of recent riots and looting in France and London.
Chief Constable Pippa Mills, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s communications chief, says not all of TikTok’s effects are inherently negative.
But she admitted some “can lead to dangerous and sometimes criminal behaviour offline”.
She told the BBC: “We’ve, upsettingly, seen additional and unnecessary pain and grief caused to victims and their families alongside detrimental impact on investigations.
“The effects of these behaviours on criminal investigations and the service to our communities should not be underestimated."
The chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has also told the BBC she is “deeply concerned” by the added pressure interference and anti-social behaviour by TikTok users puts on police.
Donna Jones called on the platform to take more responsibility for the impact of its design on its users.
She said: “The key difference here with TikTok in comparison to other social media platforms, as this investigation shows, is that their business model is based on active participation.”
Teachers’ unions have also said they are worried about how social media platforms were affecting behaviour amongst pupils.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Although schools are able to report social media misuse, they are essentially at the mercy of technology companies and their terms of service.”
Teachers’ union the NASUWT has also raised concerns over how social media platforms are “contributing to a behaviour crisis in schools”.
TikTok has previously distanced itself from outbreaks of disorder, such as the threatened looting of London’s Oxford Street in August, which politicians blamed on the app.
London's Mayor Sadiq Khan reiterated his calls for social media companies, including TikTok to “take more responsibility and clamp down on irresponsible and dangerous posts that incite violence and disorder”.
The warnings come after the Online Safety Bill was passed in the UK Parliament, which is aimed at making social media firms more responsible for users’ safety on their platforms.