The trend of middle and high school students defacing their schools’ bathrooms and posting videos of the damage on TikTok has now drawn attention from the U.S. Senate, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sending a letter to the social media company’s CEO saying it hasn’t done nearly enough to stop the “devious licks” trend.
The “devious licks” trend has involved students stealing urinals and items like soap dispensers, while also breaking sinks and bathroom tiles in acts of vandalism most commonly posted online to TikTok.
While Blumenthal said TikTok has taken some steps to remove the videos, he believes those actions are not enough, telling TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew in a letter that: “You have a responsibility to delete videos, ban users, and restrict hashtags that glorify property damage.”
A search for “devious licks” on the TikTok app yields no results, instead showing users a message that reads: “This phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines.”
Videos of bathrooms being defaced are still widely accessible on TikTok by searching for slightly misspelled versions of the phrase “devious licks.”
In a statement to Forbes, a TikTok spokesperson said the company expects “our community to stay safe and create responsibly, and we do not allow content that promotes or enables criminal activities.
“TikTok has been repeatedly misused and abused to promote behavior and actions that encourage harmful and destructive acts,” Blumenthal said.
The “devious licks” challenge has prompted concerns from parents and schools across the U.S., with some schools opting to close their bathroom facilities in response. At least 13 students across the U.S. are also facing criminal charges for their roles in creating “devious licks” content, according to a count from People magazine, and numerous other students have faced discipline from schools, including suspensions. The trend appears to have started Sept. 1, when a video was posted on TikTok of a box of disposable masks in a backpack, along with the hashtag “absolutely devious lick.” A similar video was posted days later, but featuring hand sanitizer, which gathered more than 7 million views. The content using the hashtag then quickly escalated to bathroom vandalism over the next week.
What To Watch For
Blumenthal, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, said the panel plans to hold a hearing in the coming weeks to discuss the impact of social media on children and teens. Blumenthal said he expects a representative from TikTok to attend.
TikTok’s Latest Craze: Stealing Stuff From School (The New York Times)