Joao, a 19-year-old from Parana in southern Brazil, sent ominous warnings to fans just days before he live-streamed his suicide. The video, which aired on 21 February 2019, stayed live for an hour and a half.
It took two hours for TikTok officials to become aware of the video. The company, instead of calling the police, immediately started to come up with a public relations plan to cover themselves when media got wind of it.
The company ultimately waited almost three hours to notify authorities. Instead of calling the police, they got their press statement ready – that was never released – and took absolutely no responsibility for their subsequent actions. TikTok officials took extensive steps to make sure that the story didn’t go viral, keeping an eye on other social media platforms to see if it had spread.
A former TikTok employee in Brazil said that they were told to remain anonymous.
Suicide Videos on Social Media Platforms
Unfortunately, Joao is not the first person to show their death on TikTok, however, he is the first person to live-stream it. At least two other suicides have occurred on the app in India, and a judge in India even put a ban on TikTok, which was ultimately lifted again.
Other social media networks, like Twitter and Facebook, have strategies in place to deal with sensitive material like suicide videos.
They even have partnerships with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and as well as a support system for users, they have teams that they employ to focus on keeping an open line of communication between the platform and authorities.
Companies don’t have a legal obligation to deal with troubling or offensive content, however, as is evident with Twitter and Facebook, many social media channels have strategies in place.
TikTok Does Have Moderators
Brazil saw 18 million downloads of TikTok in 2018, making it one of the largest markets for the newest social media craze. TikTok has even hired Brazilian celebrities to promote the platform and act as an influencer.
No Media Coverage of the Suicide Video
Interestingly, to this day, there has been no media coverage of Joao’s live-streamed suicide, which means that TikTok has never had to use their PR statement. Awareness of the case, in general, is still restricted to employees, and TikTok has never had to answer for their actions following the live stream of the suicide video.
The most poignant part of the entire story is that Joao’s suicide hasn’t affected the company’s image in any way, shape, or form.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline directly. They are available 24/7.
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