Tik Tok: The Breeding Ground for Predators

By: Lauren Brensel

New York Post: TikTok star Zoe Laverne apologizes for kissing her 13-year-old fan

People: TikTok's Tony Lopez Accused of Sexual Battery, Soliciting Explicit Photos from Underage Girls in Lawsuit

Insider: What to know about Jack Wright, the TikTok star at the center of Sienna Mae Gomez sexual assault allegations

Tik Tok has a problem. While some credit the video sharing app for its unique ability to create and consume content, it is inevitably dangerous. Tik Tok, often compared to Vine, centers itself around the average person. Whereas Instagram reserves app fame for celebrities, Tik Tok makes it so that anyone anywhere can become ‘famous’. Yet, with such an impressionable audience, with 41 percent of users being 16-24-years old, most people fail to inspect content creators before they give a follow.

Take user Sienna Mae Gomez, for example. Gomez, 17, first gained followers in August 2020 because of her branding of body positivity. Yet, six months later, she already had her first controversy. After releasing sweatshirts with the line “Did you eat today?”, many accused the Tik Tok star of using eating disorders and the body positivity movement just to make a profit.

In June of 2021, she was accused of sexually assaulting fellow Tik Tok user Jack Wright, 18. A video even surfaced of the acclaimed attack, where Wright had been unconscious. Worse, she used classic manipulation tactics to affirm to her followers that she had not assaulted Wright.

“If they were so uncomfortable, why didn’t they say anything to me?,” Gomez said.

“If I was just taken advantage of, I know that [I] personally wouldn’t want to hang out with that person the next day willingly”

So, how does a 17-year-old totaling 21 million followers suddenly become a predator? Well, to start, she had 21 million followers.

It is incredibly easy to brand yourself on social media, and when that happens, and audiences finally catch a glimpse of who that Internet personality really is, the result can be shocking.

Gomez is just one example among many Tik Tok teens and young adults who use their platforms for malice. The aforementioned Zoe Laverne, who was 19-years-old when she kissed an underage fan, has nearly 18 million Tik Tok followers. Tony Lopez, whose headline speaks for itself, has nearly 23 million.

These creators make Tik Toks for young audiences. They follow trends, do silly dances, and livestream for young audiences. When they mess up, the youthful nature of Tik Tok titles it a controversy when, in reality, it is a crime.

The best way to avoid a future Sienna Gomez is to do the research. Ultimately, most people do not know these creators. We have no idea what they are and are not capable of. Consider a follow to be worth a dollar amount. Would you blindly give money to a random person on the internet? Probably not. Unless you fully dive into who these people are, and what their past content looked like, you may never know exactly who you are giving a platform to.