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New TikTok challenge under fire for "mocking" people with disabilities

by Andrew Amos
TikTok

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A new TikTok challenge, dubbed the ‘Autism Challenge,’ has been widely criticized by creators on the platform for openly “mocking” people with disabilities, and the site has now begun taking action against content associated with the trend.

The ‘Autism Challenge’ on TikTok involved users dancing to a parody song of Black Eyed Peas hit “Let’s Get It Started,” making hand gestures that “mocked” people with disabilities.

The trend got shut down as quickly as it rose. As the hashtag started going viral, creators were quick to criticize users who jumped on the bandwagon. YouTube star Philip DeFranco was one of many to lead a public outcry against the trend.

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“Many of these videos have received massive backlash, prompting many to delete them,” said DeFranco in a May 14 video. “However, it’s unclear with all of them as to whether the posts were removed by Tiktok or by the creators themselves.”

All references to the challenge ⁠— except the audio used ⁠— have “disappeared” from the platform, according to DeFranco.

For mobile readers, the related segment begins at 4:56.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVR-wSpAYBU

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Instead of letting the song disappear though, other creators have weaponized it to hit back at people who took part in the challenge. Searching for the track on Tiktok brings up a host of videos condemning users for “mocking” people with disabilities.

“It’s been flooded by people slamming the trend. A number of posts are people pretending that they’re about to do the dance, then lecturing people about how disgusting it is,” added DeFranco.

Support groups for people with disabilities have condemned creators as well, including American charity Autism Speaks and blogger Kate Swenson. “We are shocked and disturbed by the recent TikTok challenge that encourages mean-spirited, discriminatory and cruel behavior toward people with special needs, including autism,” said the charity on Twitter.

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TikTok’s terms of service state that users on the platform cannot “intimidate or harass another, or promote...violence or discrimination based on...disability.”

TikTok are yet to issue a statement on the challenge. Although it’s mostly deleted from the platform, creators who took part in it are still active on the platform.