TikTok removes #autismchallenge from platform amid backlash

In the challenge, users move and make facial expressions that appear to mock individuals with disabilities.
/ Source: TODAY
By Terri Peters

The latest challenge to gain attention on the popular TikTok app is drawing anger and frustration from the autism community and beyond.

Videos marked with the hashtag #autismchallenge gained attention earlier this month as individuals with autism and their families began seeing the clips and expressing outrage on social media. In the videos, background music plays while TikTok users move and make facial expressions that appear to be mocking individuals with disabilities.

"As someone who has autism, Asperger syndrome, it hurts me to see people doing this as a joke," wrote one Twitter user. "I hope (for) people that did the challenge to be educated and learn that this is wrong."

"I don't use @tiktok_uk and I never will," wrote another. "How vile and disgusting to have an #autismchallenge. I fight everyday for my sons right to be seen as equal and with one stupid TikTok you could have all that taken away."

Autism advocacy and support organization the Autism Society of America issued a statement last week, asking TikTok to remove the hurtful challenge from its platform.

"Every individual, regardless of neuro-diversity, should be treated with dignity and respect," the statement reads. "The Autism Society demands that TikTok takes the necessary action to end this offensive challenge, and apologize to the autism and disability communities for this shameful activity."

TikTok has since removed the offensive hashtag and videos from their platform.

A statement provided to TODAY Parents by TikTok reads: "This content does not reflect our values and is against the code of conduct outlined in our Community Guidelines. The hashtag in question has been removed and we will take action against any further content that violates our policies."

The TikTok spokesperson also said the challenge did not appear to be widespread on the platform, adding that many more users were posting content condemning the videos than creating them.

@cam_mcsnuggles_duetqueen

Let’s get this taken down. I can’t stand ppl making fun of others with disabilities 🤨 ##fyp ##duet👑kingdomfamily ##rdto50k ##iammcsnuggles

♬ original sound - zanayasligh

Prior to the removal of the videos, TikTok user @cam_mcsnuggles_duetqueen shared a screen capture of one TikTok user's challenge clip.

"If you are on my following list and you use this audio, you're gonna get blocked," she said in her post. "This is really disrespectful and immature. Making fun of someone with a disability is not funny."