Statement on meeting with TikTok about posts abusing teachers

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), and Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), met with representatives of the social media platform TikTok today. This meeting followed a recent spate of posts on TikTok containing imagery and comments that are extremely offensive to school staff and have caused huge distress.
In a joint statement, Mr Barton and Mr Whiteman said:
“We met with TikTok today and were pleased to have a constructive discussion focused on finding both immediate and long-term solutions to addressing the horrendous abuse of teachers that has featured in posts on the platform over the past two weeks.
“We have been assured that TikTok has a large team working on this issue, that it has taken down hundreds of pieces of content, and that it has banned accounts and hashtags associated with this trend. TikTok has also offered to provide communications to our members to help in terms of reporting abusive content and we will be circulating this guidance via our newsletters in due course.
“The problem with all of this is that there appears to be a mismatch between the action being taken by TikTok and what we are hearing from members. School leaders continue to tell us of posts on TikTok which target staff with highly offensive and defamatory material, and a number say TikTok has either not responded to requests to remove this content, or has decided there is no violation of community guidelines, which we find impossible to understand.
“We can only hope that the situation improves and that the action being taken by TikTok proves effective in tackling this appalling trend. We will be monitoring the feedback we receive from school leaders.
“In the longer term, we have spoken to TikTok about the need for a better system to address this sort of problem if anything similar happens again in the future, and we have suggested that this might be done by the creation of an education portal which is staffed by a dedicated education team that schools can contact.
“We understand this is not something that can be set up overnight, but the experience of the past two weeks illustrates the need to make the platform far more effective in rapidly dealing with any issues of this nature.”