National teachers union asks social media companies to stop dangerous viral challenges

The largest teachers union in the nation is urging major social media companies to stop the spread of viral challenges that endanger teachers.

In a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the National Education Association pushed tech leaders at TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to prioritize educators’ safety by better regulating the trends on their platforms.

The latest challenge dares students to “slap a teacher,” causing education officials to worry about teacher’s safety.

In a tweet, TikTok said the challenge is an insult to educators everywhere. “And while this is not a trend on TikTok, if at any point it shows up, content will be removed.”

This follows last month’s “devious licks” challenge where students vandalized or stole items from school bathrooms. Students in Virginia counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William participated in the challenge. Ultimately, TikTok ended up removing the devious licks content.

The union also called the social media platforms a double-edged sword, and said the companies “sought to create algorithms that would increase people’s fervent use of your platforms,” claiming that the companies put profit first with no regard for its effect.

The letter also addressed the growing attacks against teachers during the pandemic, referencing educators who have been attacked for enforcing COVID-19 protocols.

The union acknowledged the Justice Department’s directive to investigate violence against educators, but in the letter asked “where is the urgency from the very companies that have helped fuel the conspiracies causing attacks?”

The letter went on to say schools should be a center of learning, but that social media platforms have helped turn them into centers of a culture war.

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