PRESS RELEASE: Outrage over sick TikTok stunt

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As users post sick videos faking seizures and deaths, Epilepsy Action Australia calls for a ban and apology from TikTok.

Australia’s leading epilepsy support organisation has slammed a horrifying TikTok trend that features users faking seizures and even deaths.

In TikTok’s ‘seizure challenge,’ young people pretend to suffer or die from a fit, accompanied by jaunty pop music and dancing. Some of the clips tastelessly feature the track “Lucid Dreams” by rapper Juice WRLD, who tragically passed away late last year after a seizure.

The videos feature a voice-over saying: “Had something traumatic happen to me that changed my life,” before users pretend to convulse. Many posting the sick clips are teenagers or even younger children.

Amid growing public outrage, Epilepsy Action Australia’s CEO Carol Ireland has called on TikTok to clamp down on the abhorrent clips. ‘I’m appalled that people are pretending to have seizures as if it’s a joke,’ she says. ‘Living with epilepsy is certainly no joke. It’s a disease requiring strength and courage to manage, and those living with epilepsy have enough challenges without being mocked on a global scale for their condition.’

She added: “Sadly, people can and do die as a result of their epilepsy, and as a community we should be mourning this fact and seeking to better support and treat the many Australians living with this disease. Mockery such as this can cause untold damage and distress to those – especially young people – facing the daily challenges of epilepsy.”

During COVID-19 TikTok has seen a user upsurge as the world goes digital while self-isolating indoors. The platform has had more than 1.5 billion downloads worldwide. But the connection offered by the platform has a dark side, as the ‘seizure challenge’ shows.

While many TikTok dance clips are entertaining and harmless, the social media stream has been criticised by for its ill-advised video challenges. The seizure challenge is the latest in a series of disturbing and dangerous trends which have included users shoving each other to the ground and poking metal objects into electricity outlets.

Although TikTok provides an extensive list of ‘community guidelines’ stating that the company does not allow ‘content that is excessively gruesome or shocking, especially that promotes or glorifies abject violence or suffering,’ the rules appear to have done nothing to deter the popularity of these troubling trends.

The ‘seizure challenge’ represents the unacceptable face of TikTok use, says Carol Ireland.

“ Mocking or bullying anyone with a medical condition should simply never be tolerated – on any platform,” she says. “We are here to protect and support people living with epilepsy in every way. That includes advocating to ensure this sort of content is stopped.

“Tiktok needs to take ownership to stop this trend and manage the platform,” adds Ireland. “Where are the guidelines in place to prevent this happening? Why is it still allowed to feature on TikTok? Broadly, this begs the question: how is this platform being regulated?”

Ireland encourages anyone finding such video clips on TikTok – or anywhere else – to report them to the platform and to complain in the strongest terms.

She says Epilepsy Action Australia has contacted TikTok and hopes they will take immediate action against the disgraceful trend and apologise for the hurt and damage it has caused.

“We want to know what is TIKTOK going to do about it. Those living with epilepsy GLOBALLY want answers – and an apology.”

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