Viral TikTok videos that encourage people to secretly stalk their partners using their iPhones have been branded “appalling” by experts.
Speaking to The Sun, domestic abuse charities said the clips, which rack up millions of views, are putting people’s lives in danger.
The videos are allowed to spread on the platform unchecked despite TikTok prohibiting content that encourages stalking.
TikTok, a video platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a popular destination for people looking for technology tips and tricks.
Creators frequently go viral by highlighting little-known iPhone or Android features for viewers to try.
However, one trend among gadget tipsters is putting people at risk of abuse by teaching viewers how to stalk their partners.
The clips give step-by-step tutorials for tracking a girlfriend or boyfriend’s whereabouts using their smartphone.
Typically, the videos show how to find out where someone has been by accessing location data stored on their iOS or Android device.
The uploads feature titles such as “tracking iPhone to stalk your GF” and “how to catch cheating partner.”
It is a criminal offense to stalk, locate and track others without their consent.
The Sun uncovered two such videos uploaded by the same tech tipster over the past week that had racked up a combined 380,000 views.
After The Sun got in contact with TikTok, one of the videos was taken down. The second remained live at the time of publishing.
A cursory search of the platform brings up multiple uploads dishing out similar tips. One such video has over a million views.
Many of the clips were uploaded months ago, suggesting TikTok’s efforts to remove stalking content are falling short of the mark.
Ruth Davison, CEO of the charity Refuge, said that stalking is an “insidious” form of abuse that puts victims’ lives at risk.
She called on TikTok and other social media platforms to be more proactive in taking down abuse content.
“These videos are appalling and should be removed immediately,” she told The Sun.
“Refuge supports women every day who have been harassed, stalked, controlled, and intimated by their partners or ex-partners who are using technology to perpetrate abuse.
“Social media companies who allow this sort of content to be put and remain online are putting women’s lives in danger.”
Her comments were echoed by Ann Moulds, chief executive of the charity Action Against Stalking.
Moulds told The Sun: “This is a clever use of technology to teach would-be stalkers and abusers how to track their partners.
“It’s very dangerous to share. It is encouraging people to commit a criminal offense.”
CALL FOR CRACKDOWN
In its terms of service, TikTok says that it “removes content that promotes or enables criminal activities.”
The platform adds that it prohibits content that “provides instructions on how to conduct criminal activities that result in harm to people, animals, or property.”
A spokesperson said: “At TikTok, maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment is our top priority. Our Community Guidelines make clear that we do not tolerate harassment, stalking or controlling behavior.”
Davison called on policymakers to crackdown on social media companies who fail to remove abusive content.
She proposed expanding the Online Safety Bill – which aims to regulate social media platforms – to directly protect women and girls from online abuse.
“As it stands, social media companies are not regulated and that presents a real problem for tackling online violence against women and girls,” Davison told The Sun.
“That’s why Refuge is calling for the Online Safety Bill to directly protect women and girls.
“Together with our sector partners and academics, we have proposed a code of practice which can simply be inserted into this Bill to ensure social media companies are held to account.
“These videos are a very real example of why change is needed, and we urge the government to move quickly and adopt the code of practice and show it is serious about protecting women and girls from online threats and abuse.”
Recent advances and technology have made it easier than ever to carry out abusive behaviors.
Multiple women have reported being followed after creeps secretly planted coin-sized item trackers on their persons.
Smartphone apps that silently track and monitor people have become popular with abusers and are freely available online.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.