Million-dollar TV ad campaign accuses TikTok of exposing young people content glorifying suicide, self-harm

EXCLUSIVE – A new parental rights group is launching a seven-figure ad buy that accuses TikTok of being a portal to content harmful to childrens’ mental health “while collecting vast amounts of personal data from its users, including minors.”

The national television “TikTok is poison” ad simultaneously jumpstarted a new organization, American Parents Coalition (APC), launched Wednesday, that seeks to “put parents back in the driver’s seat through national, local and community activism, education, and demands for further transparency from the institutions influencing our children.”

The group referred to research that TikTok exposes children to “content that glorifies suicide and eating disorders to young audience.”

Parental rights advocate Alleigh Marré said that the “poison” is reaching kids on social media platforms.

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TIKTOK  (Fox News Digital )

“Our goal to educate the American public, specifically parents that… these are the effects of TikTok and what it’s feeding to your children… and that this is a really, you know, dangerous thing for our kids to have in their pockets,” Marré told Fox News Digital in an interview.

“We would never allow our children to spend time around people who speak positively about suicide or encourage anorexia. Yet these dangerous themes reach… impressionable children and teenagers every day on TikTok…[,] jeopardizing their sanity and safety with its addictive algorithms. We are calling on all parents to help us stop this digital poison,” she added.

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TikTok’s critics have long warned that the social media app could pose a national security threat. Lawmakers have cited concerns about the Chinese government’s ability to leverage its power over Bytedance to access sensitive user data.

China hawks have also warned that the app’s popularity among young Americans gives the ruling Chinese Communist Party a platform for a mass influence campaign.

Researchers at the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate alleged that TikTok’s algorithm boosted videos about self-harm and eating disorders for vulnerable teens. TikTok responded by disputing the findings, noting that the researchers didn’t use the platform like typical users, and saying that the results were skewed as a result.

TikTok, accused of being “poison,” is used by young people for hours every single day.  (Getty Images)

After some input from researchers on liking content and interacting with the app, they said TikTok allegedly then recommended videos about losing weight and self-harm, including ones featuring pictures of models and idealized body types, images of razor blades and discussions of suicide, the Center for Countering Digital Hate alleged. It was unclear how the researcher’s input affected or skewed typical algorithm outcomes.

TikTok prohibits users who are younger than 13, and its official rules prohibit videos that encourage eating disorders or suicide. Users in the U.S. who search for content about eating disorders on TikTok receive a prompt offering mental health resources and contact information for the National Eating Disorder Association.

TikTok is accused of exposing children to harmful content by new parental advocacy group. (Fox News Digital)

“We regularly consult with health experts, remove violations of our policies, and provide access to supportive resources for anyone in need,” TikTok told the Associated Press in December 2022.

Fox News Digital contacted TikTok regarding the allegations raised by the American Parents Coalition.

The APC ad buy comes after the House of Representatives passed the proposed legislation last week requiring TikTok parent company Bytedance to divest from the app — or else ban TikTok’s distribution in the United States.

The bill passed with bipartisan support with a 352-65 vote. President Biden has publicly stated he would sign the proposed TikTok divestment legislation if it reached his desk.

Fox News’ Timonthy Nerozzi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hannah Grossman is a Reporter at Fox News Digital.

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