As the Fourth of July neared, a local news broadcast in Alabama warned of a dangerous TikTok challenge that entailed jumping from a racing boat.
“Last six months we have had four drownings that were easily avoidable,” Jim Dennis, captain of the Childersburg Rescue Team, told the local ABC affiliate station in Birmingham, Alabama, in a story that aired July 3. “They were doing a TikTok challenge.”
The report was picked up by national and international news outlets, who warned about the trend. However, while there have been boating fatalities this year, no such de@ths have been documented, according to Alabama’s major public safety department. According to a TikTok spokesman, no boat jumping challenge is currently trending on the app.
Let’s take a deeper look at the facts.
CLAIM: Four people d!ed recently in Alabama after jumping from moving boats while trying a popular TikTok challenge.
THE FACTS: On Monday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which supervises the state’s public safety agencies, sent a tweet to disprove the popular falsehoods. You can see the tweet below:
On Monday, July 3, a news story was shared regarding “first responders warning against a deadly boating TikTok trend after recent drownings” in Alabama. However, please be advised the information released to the news outlet was incorrect.
— Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (@ALEAprotects) July 10, 2023
The government stated that it had “no records of boating or marine-related de@ths that could be directly linked to TikTok or a trend on TikTok.”
It was noticed that one individual d!ed after jumping from a moving boat in 2020, and another comparable occurrence occurred in 2021, however neither de@th was linked to TikTok.
The department released facts about six water-related de@ths examined by marine patrol this year in a follow-up email to The Associated Press. TikTok or any other issue is not mentioned in any of the incident reports.
On July 8, For example, a 79-year-old man perished after slipping from his boat while fishing overnight on a river without a life vest. A 65-year-old man perished the day before after getting off a pontoon boat to save a puppy in a lake.
Other fatalities included a 19-year-old who d!ed after crashing his jet ski into a tree in May and a man who d!ed in January when the sailboat he was in collided with a bridge and sank.
People magazine, the New York Post, and a number of other prominent news sites that first reported on the TikTok challenge ki!!ings have recently updated their coverage to include the state’s response.
However, social media users in both English and Spanish continue to share the allegations as true. Some even include films ostensibly showing the victims.
“Police say at least 4 people have d!ed doing the TikTok boat jumping challenge,” wrote one Twitter user in a widely shared post that included various video clips of people diving off moving boats. “When they jumped out of the boat, they literally broke their neck … instant de@th.” You can see the tweet below:
Police say at least 4 people have died doing the TikTok boat jumping challenge
"When they jumped out of the boat, they literally broke their neck … instant death" pic.twitter.com/OKUPNXlGG0
— Culture Crave 🍿 (@CultureCrave) July 9, 2023
Meanwhile, Dennis, the original story’s local first responder, retracted his views after state officials weighed in this week.
He told AL.com, another local news site in Alabama, that his comments regarding boating safety during an interview were taken out of context, but he insisted that his group has responded to complaints of individuals jumping off boats this year.
“It got blown way out of proportion,” said Dennis, who didn’t respond to requests for additional comment this week.
The ABC affiliate in Birmingham also declined to comment, but in a story Monday about the state’s response, the station included Dennis’ full, unedited interview.
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Ben Rathe, a spokesperson for TikTok, stressed “boat jumping” has never trended on platform, echoing a statement the company’s office in Mexico City previously provided in Spanish.
TikTok also said it does not comment on things that are “not part (of the platform) / are not trending on the platform.”
Like other social media companies, TikTok has seen any number of “challenges” go viral over the years, from the potentially hazardous and destructive to the outright criminal and de@dly.
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