ALICIA MENENDEZ (ANCHOR): Do you have a sense — does Media Matters have a sense of where these hoaxes are coming from? And you know, we've talked about the responsibility of media outlets, how we have to talk about this, the amount of attention we do or don't give it. For media consumers, what is it that they need to know?
ANGELO CARUSONE (PRESIDENT, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA): I think the biggest thing to know is that, especially in this context, this is the third major one we've seen this year so far that stems from TikTok. So by now I think we have two lessons here. One is that we should have gotten better at this, all of us, at identifying this early on and then not intensifying and amplifying it.
And two that it's going to continue. And your question about where it's starting, it's unclear. I think Malcolm gave a couple sort of ideas there that can snowball and replicate, but they also demonstrate a deeper vulnerability, which is that the platforms didn't put any friction into the system to slow it down from spreading. That the authorities — in this case the school districts, but in the past it was school teachers, they were the ones that validated the slap a teacher hoax. So all these county officials were sending out this thing about a video that never existed. There was not a TikTok challenge to slap your teacher. But they were all issuing warnings and preemptive defense about something that didn't exist.
And back in April — and there was real threats from that one — there was an a similar, almost exact mirror image of what we saw called national rape day on TikTok, where the top 50 videos, a combined 48 million views in just a short period of time, said that rape was legal for a day, and that women needed to defend themselves and arm themselves at any public place they went.
And we saw students in that moment bringing knives and weapons to schools because they thought we were going to get raped as a consequence of this. And it was the exact same thing. There was actually no original video that could ever be identified that started it. And in fact, the culprit seems to be actual concerned people that sort of heard a rumor or got it somewhere, started doing videos about it, and then they got replicated, amplified, and worst of all, validated by existing trusted sources