Teachers union demands social media companies curb misinformation, violent trends

Social media is causing more than just headaches for teachers.

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Viral trends on social media, from the “devious licks” that had students stealing school equipment to the misinformation regarding critical race theory, are some of the newest issues schools across the country are facing. Now the largest teachers union in the US is calling on social media platforms to stop the problems from spreading. 

Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, sent a letter to TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about the issues schools are facing due to social media, according to a report Friday from the The Wall Street Journal. The letter explains the challenges schools have faced so far this year and calls for the companies to “prioritize the safety of people over profits.”

“Your companies have both the power and responsibility to stamp out disinformation and violent trends – for the sake of Public Education and the future of democracy,” Pringle said. “To that end, we’re demanding that your companies make a public pledge to students, educators, and their families to regulate lies and fix your algorithms to put public safety over profits.”

Two issues laid out in the letter are the viral trends of “devious licks” and misinformation. The first, which started last month, had  students stealing random school equipment such as clocks, microscopes and soap dispensers. Students would then gloat on TikTok about their “licks” — a “successful type of theft which results in an acceptable, impressive and rewarding payday for the protagonist,” according to Urban Dictionary. In response, the platform began removing content and tags related to the trend. 

Critical race theory — an academic concept that says racism is embedded in legal systems and policies — has become a heated discussion point at school board meetings. Parents in some districts yell and berate teachers and school board members over the subject, although it’s up to state legislatures to decide whether it’s taught or not. There have also been an increasing number of assaults and threats by parents over school policies regarding masks and other COVID-19 policies. 

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that the company received the letter and intends to respond. A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment. TikTok didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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