A hoax message that had spread over text warning that President Donald Trump was about to announce a “national quarantine” in response to the coronavirus pandemic appeared on the social media platform TikTok, where videos pushing the hoax remain despite the platform's new anti-misinformation policy.
During the weekend of March 13 through at least March 16, people throughout the United States received text messages similar to the following: “Please be advised. Within 48 to 72 hours the President will evoke what is called the Stafford Act. Stock up on whatever you guys need to make sure you have a two week supply of everything. Please forward to your network." The text was a hoax -- Trump has already declared a national emergency under the Stafford Act -- and the National Security Council’s Twitter account on March 15 tweeted: “Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown.”
The hoax message made its way to TikTok via multiple videos that still remain up, even though the platform announced a major update to its community guidelines in January, which now includes a section on “misleading information” stating that the platform does “not permit misinformation that could cause harm to our community or the larger public” and that it will “remove misinformation that could cause harm to an individual's health or wider public safety.”
The videos, which have more than 19,000 views combined as of publication, feature similar language from the text or users repeating the same message. The most widely watched of the videos features the text message over music and then mentions in another image that “Trump is going to order a two week mandatory quarantine for the nation” and to “make sure you have what you need for COUCHella 2020.”
In another video introducing a message to “all TikTokers,” a user said that “there’s a big conversation that the Stafford Act is going to be put into motion sometime within the next 48 to 72 hours” and will be “a lockdown … where you have to stay in your house.”
And in another video, a user showed an apparent screenshot of the text and said they “just saw this on someone’s Snapchat story.” (Media Matters has removed identifying information from a video created by and featuring a minor to protect their identity.)