A network of TikTok accounts is teaching users how to make pipe bombs and other weapons
TikTok's algorithm is helping the accounts reach millions of users
Update (5/18/22): It appears that TikTok has since removed the accounts referenced in this piece, though related backup accounts and duplicates of the videos still remain on the platform.
A seemingly affiliated network of TikTok accounts is teaching users how to make dangerous — and often illegal — weapons, garnering millions of combined views on videos that are in clear violation of TikTok’s own community guidelines prohibiting “instructions on how to make or use weapons that may incite violence.” These accounts speak to a larger problem of TikTok’s inability to sufficiently moderate dangerous instructional videos — and the platform’s algorithm is actually amplifying this content.
The network of TikTok accounts use variations of the same basic account name or share the same hashtags, while also recycling the instructional videos that teach users how to make weapons such as pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, and chloroform. One creator admitted to running multiple accounts in order to evade a TikTok ban.
Users will often ask for specific weapon instructions and the creator will respond with a step-by-step tutorial teaching how to make dangerous weapons, with an outwardly innocuous cartoon man (generated using Renderforest) providing instructions.
One user asked, “homemade grenade pls kind sir,” and the creator responded with a pipe bomb tutorial.
The accounts often use the hashtag “joke” or “meme” in the caption of their videos to evade TikTok’s moderation efforts. One of the accounts has claimed that the tutorials are “real” and that they “only use #joke to avoid the tiktok ban” — not because the videos are “fake.”
Some accounts direct users to their Discord “chemistry” or “laboratory” channels, promising new “recipes.” Multiple accounts claim to get their recipes from The Anarchist Cookbook, which has been linked to a number of terrorist attacks since it was first published in 1971, including the Oklahoma City bombing and Columbine school shooting. In 2013, the author called for the book to “go quietly and immediately out of print” after it was connected to another attack.
Now, videos sharing its bomb-making instructions have cumulatively garnered millions of views — in addition to the millions of views of an affiliated hashtag — meaning TikTok’s algorithm has enabled these tutorials to widely circulate. This is particularly concerning in the wake of a mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket over the weekend, in which a white supremacist shooter was allegedly radicalized on 4chan and planned his attack on Discord — highlighting the dangerous role that online platforms can play in spreading real-world violence.