Where did the viral challenge to bring weapons to schools start? TikTok says not on its platform

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(WGHP) — The social media platform TikTok says there is no content on the app that promotes a viral “challenge” encouraging students to bring weapons to school on Friday, Dec. 17.

Videos have been posted on TikTok that discuss the rumored social media “challenge” and tell others to stay safe, but no videos encouraging violence in schools are on the app, according to a statement posted on the TikTok Twitter page.

The full statement from TikTok is provided below:

“We’ve exhaustively searched for content that promotes violence at schools today, but have still found nothing. What we find are videos discussing this rumor and warning others to stay safe. Local authorities, the FBI, and DHS have confirmed there’s no credible threat, so we’re working to remove alarmist warnings that violate our misinformation policy. If we did find promotion of violence on our platform, we’d remove and report it to law enforcement. Media reports have been widespread and based on rumors rather than facts, and we are deeply concerned that the proliferation of local media reports on an alleged trend that has not been found on the platform could end up inspiring real world harm. We understand it can be difficult to know how to assess viral warnings online. We have a guide on our Safety Center to help people assess this kind of content.”

School districts across the country have issued statements, mostly echoing the same sentiment: the alleged threats are not believed to be credible, but districts are working with law enforcement agencies to ensure that schools and students are safe.

In their statements, some school districts say that the threats originated on TikTok, but they do not appear to link to any particular TikTok videos or accounts.

TikTok’s statement sparks the question: if not TikTok, where did this viral challenge start?

Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland says the viral threat started in Arizona on TikTok, but did not provide information on how the district confirmed this information.

FOX8 searched for the earliest reference to a possible TikTok-related threat for an alleged Dec. 17 attack. The earliest reference FOX8 could find was a statement from the Elko County Sheriff’s Office in Nevada on Tuesday that officers had been looking into a TikTok post threatening gun violence at a school on Dec. 17. The sheriff’s office said the TikTok did not reference Elko County.

“In the last few days local law enforcement have been looking into a TIK TOK threatening gun violence at the school,” Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza said in a release. “This is scheduled for 12/17/2021. My staff has followed up on every threat that has been brought to our attention. We have used all our resources including monitoring the threats with the assistance of our state and federal partners. Currently there is no credible threat to any of the schools in Elko County.”

The Elko County Sheriff’s Office said the threat began as a viral video about skipping school on Dec. 17.

“As things often go, it morphed into something more with the input of social media,” the release said. “As of today, Elko schools have not been included in this TikTok challenge or have not had any students report it to law enforcement.”

The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t found any credible information indicating a threat but asks communities to stay alert.

Their full statement is provided below:

“DHS is aware of public reporting that suggests possible threats to schools on December 17, 2021. DHS does not have any information indicating any specific, credible threats to schools but recommends communities remain alert.”

The Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina said that they are “aware of a national TikTok challenge promoting violence at our schools today. We do not believe this to be a credible threat locally, but out of an abundance of caution, there will be increased officer presence at our schools throughout day.”

Rockingham County Schools similarly said, “Rockingham County Schools is aware of a troubling social media post that has been shared widely today on the social media platform TikTok. The post refers to a threat to school safety ‘for every school in the USA, even elementary,’ on Friday, December 17, 2021.”

The school district adds that the trend did not originate in Rockingham County or in North Carolina.

Other Piedmont Triad school systems, including Stokes County and Surry County, issued statements using similar language.

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