When you hear the word TikTok, the first thing that you would think of is lipsync vines where users, usually in the younger demographics, sing along with their favorite songs and dance to their tunes. However, these are not the only things you can see in the video platform — predators are also lurking, and some of them are making advances against young girls.
But a vigilante network of young women says enough with such injustice. They have dedicated a portion of their lives to expose and rebuke the predators they find in TikTok and post their exploits on other social media platforms like Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram. This practice is their form of an ad hoc justice and their way of fighting off older men with ill intentions in the platform.
It is already common knowledge that tech companies and apps are doing a terrible job in policing their platform. Even with TikTok’s promise that their platform has policies and guidelines “to foster trust, respect, and a positive environment for everyone in this community,” predators and old men preying on young girls still exist in the platform, and it seems like TikTok tends to overlook them.
And overlooking the existence of harassing accounts isn’t just the problem with TikTok — they facilitate it. TikTok, just like other social media platform, is algorithmically optimized to deliver targeted contents to each user to encourage engagements. This strategy is the same with Facebook and Netflix to curate content that they think a specific user is more likely to watch or read.
“If some creepy guy just keeps liking videos of younger girls doing similar audios or soundtracks or hashtags, those are going to keep coming up on his ‘For You’ page,” said an 18-year-old user named Liz W., who goes by @bithoeji on the app and spoke on the condition her full last name not be used. “So it’s easier for him to find more victims. And I think that’s what makes it so easy for predators to come on it and victimize young children.”
That is why the women and girls in the DIY ad hoc network are fighting back and taking justice in their own hands. The group of girls is collecting allegations of sexual harassment and pedophilia in the platform and blasts them out across YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, bagging and tagging the older men trying to prey on them. The girls say that this is their way of protecting themselves in a platform that seems unable to protect them.
In one specific account, a fourteen-year-old reached out to Liz after the latter has posted a cringe-y video of a twenty-eight-year-old man with the TikTok persona of “@TheBudday” (pronounced “the bidet”). The fourteen-year-old (now 15) said that she could help Liz in finding out if the man is a predator.
The little experiment of the two girls concluded expectedly — @TheBudday is indeed a predator. The younger girl said that when she started talking to the guy, their conversation was initially decent with their topics, only involving cosplay and how the guy wanted to try doing it until he decided to become clingy on her and sending her provocative images like him kissing the screen or licking his lips.
Worse, when the girl told him her age, instead of ending the conversation, @Budday even became more aggressive in sending her inappropriate images and videos. These videos were posted by Liz in her social media accounts to expose the guy and reported the account to TikTok.
Amidst Liz’s report, TikTok did not respond to her nor did they contact @Budday until the guy decided to delete his account on November last year and found out that he was banned after he tried to get back to the platform again one month after.
Reached for comment, a TikTok spokesperson confirmed that the TheBudday account was banned for violating the company’s community guidelines.
“We deploy a combination of policies, technology, and moderation strategies to address problematic content or accounts, and implement penalties ranging from restricting certain features to banning an account,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “This is an industry-wide challenge and, while protections won’t catch all instances of misuse, we’re committed to continuously enhancing our existing measures and introducing additional technical and moderation processes in our ongoing commitment to our users.”
Nonetheless, the existence of young women protecting each other in the platform is telling of how prevalant predatory behavior is in TikTok and maybe it’s already time to change policy for the app to ensure the safety of their users.