Friday, 3 Apr 2020

How TikTok lets teens re-enact Ted Bundy's murder spree in disturbing viral trend

TEENS are covering themselves in fake bruises and blood to stage sick "Ted Bundy-style" kidnappings on TikTok, a Sun Online probe found.

The macabre clips have been posted on the video-sharing app of girls being dragged across the floor with their hands bound and mouths gagged.

Other disturbing videos feature users mimicking the serial killer as they grab their "victims" from under the bed.

Youngsters use the hashtag POV – meaning point of view – to show they are just acting.

But the kidnap videos strike a sinister undertone in contrast to the laughing teens dancing and lip-syncing to their favourite songs TikTok is famous for.

The Sun Online found dozens of chilling clips under the hashtag #tedbundy – with around 14.5million views – within just minutes.

The fiend was responsible for murdering more than 30 young women over a four-year reign of terror in the US in the 1970s.

But disturbing posts show schoolgirls pretending to get ready for a blind date as they apply make up in front of the camera.

But the video then switches to the teens looking battered and bruised as they are dragged along the ground by someone out of shot.


TikTok has spread like digital wildfire, snapping up over 1.5 billion users since its global launch three years ago — including millions in the UK. 

On the surface, the world's fastest growing social media platform shows short clips of  lip-syncing to songs or showing off dance moves but there’s a far more sinister side. 

It’s become a magnet for paedophiles as well as a hotbed for violent and extremist content, with TikTok predators exploiting the platform's young user base and lax security to prey on the vulnerable.

We've seen kids as young as eight being groomed on TikTok, while other creeps take advantage of young girls posting sexualised content of themselves on the platform.

And that's especially worrying on a site which is attracting millions more children every year, with 53 per cent of kids now owning a smartphone by the age of seven.

That's why we launched our TikTok Time Bomb series — to make sure parents are aware of the risks their kids are being exposed to, and what they can do to better protect them. 

We also want TikTok to better moderate its content so that its not being left to kids to protect themselves online. 

One girl in a video found by The Sun Online shows a young-looking girl doing up her dress and applying blusher as she gets ready for her "date".

But the camera then flips to her covered in fake blood being dragged slowly across the ground.

The caption reads: "The date with ted bundy didn’t go as planned” #foryoupage #foryou #featurethis".

In another video, a blonde girl applies bright red lipstick in front of a mirror before being slammed to the ground and pulled away from the camera.

She called the video: "First, and last date with Ted Bundy #tedbundy #acting".

In both clips, the song I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire by The Ink Spots is playing in the background.

Bundy was thrust into the spotlight again last year when film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile came out starring Zac Efron as the killer.

The Hollywood actor and film director Joe Berlinger were forced to defend claims it glamorised Bundy's crimes after one of his surviving victims hit out at the blockbuster.

Kathy Kleiner Rubin, who was 20 when she was attacked by Bundy while at Florida State University, told TMZ: "The movie does glorify him more than I think he should be, but like I said, I think everyone should see it and understand him as what he was, even when he was the perfect son.”

Other twisted posts show the "kidnapper" lying in wait as they prepare to pounce on their fake victims, while some have users dressed up as Bundy himself.

Sun Online launched its TikTok Time Bomb series to make sure parents are aware of the risks their kids are being exposed to, and what they can do to better protect them.

We also want TikTok to better moderate its content so that it's not being left to kids to protect themselves online.

Our campaign is shining a light on the dangerous side of the app and how its lax security and moderation has allowed it to become a magnet for paedophiles, profanity, crime, violence and extremism.

Disturbingly, more than a quarter of parents admit they are clueless such content even exists.

It isn't just Bundy who young users are romanticising on TikTok – there are millions of other videos being viewed under the Charles Manson hashtag.

Dozens of users have posted short clips of themselves boasting the cult leader's sinister tattoo on their foreheads.

The teens use creepy black and white filters to mouth along to laughing Manson's chilling audio clips in the background about his sickening crimes.

Even more harrowing, one user poses with a knife with a cross "tattoo" on his forehead as he tells users: "Let's have a little fun".

Evil Manson was convicted of orchestrating the 1969 murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others using besotted young girls and boys to carry out the brutal killings.

But some users aren't even relying on notorious criminals to act out their kidnap fantasies.

A simple search using the kidnap hashtag throws up millions of eerily similar videos of users "roleplaying" as the victim.

As with the shocking Bundy clips, young girls can be seen wearing make up that appears to show them covered in blood and cuts.

One video we saw shows a girl with braces splattered in fake blood lip-syncing to a song called "Don't Break My Heart".

She appears to be quivering and tearful, with the caption reading: "POV: I think my kidnappers going to kill me".


TikTok is a global social media app that lets users create and share short videos with music and camera effects.

It's owned by Beijing-based ByteDance and was originally released in 2016.

The $78billion conglomerate acquired the app in 2017 and merged it with TikTok, bringing millions of new users.

It's one of the world’s most downloaded smartphone apps – with an estimated 1.5billion downloads across the globe, according to data from mobile research firm Sensor Tower.

TikTok particularly attracts younger audiences, with around 41 per cent of its users aged between 16 and 24.

Another video found by The Sun Online features a teenager with her hands bound and mouth gagged with make up streaked across her eyes and fake blood pouring from her nose.

In a menacing twist, she even tells a story in the caption, which reads: "#fyp #foryoupage #kidnapped this psycho has kept u hidden for 2 years he beats u he finds a voicemail on your phone and he torches u with it #acting".

The girl also uses an audio clip of two people singing Happy Birthday Hailey.

Some clips under the kidnapped hashtag show TikTok "duets", which is when a user creates a video using an existing post which then appears alongside their own.

One tells a story of a "kidnapper" discovering his victim has a phone, which she tried to call the police on.

As she appears distraught with fake blood splattering her face and top, the kidnapper yells at her for being a "very bad girl".

But there are fears that while the videos are fake, they could lead to youngsters copying what they see in real life.

In response TikTok said it was reviewing the footage found by the Sun Online.

A spokesperson said: "Keeping our community safe is a top priority for TikTok.

"We do not allow content that praises, glorifies, or supports dangerous individuals.

"Our safety teams are currently reviewing these videos.

"If the content violates our Community Standards we will take appropriate action in line with our policies."

Take control of TikTok – change these settings now

Parents should do the following immediately…

Go private:

  • Head into Settings > Privacy and Safety and look for the Discoverability heading at the top.
  • Under that you'll see a setting called Private Account. Toggle this on.
  • TikTok recommends your page to lots of other users to improve video circulation.
  • Switch the setting off and the account will no longer be recommended to other users.

Shut out weirdos:

  • In Privacy and Safety > Safety, you can prevent other users from interacting with you.
  • Most of the settings are on Everyone by default, but can be changed to Friends or Off.
  • You can prevent interactions on comments, Duets, Reacts, users seeing which videos you've liked, and also messages.

Restricted Mode ON:

  • Restricted Mode tries to limit age-inappropriate content from appearing for children.
  • It's not perfect, and works through using computer-scanning systems – so some dodgy content will inevitably be missed.
  • It's also possible to set a passcode to prevent your child from changing this setting later on.
  • You'll find this in Settings > Digital Wellbeing > Screen Time Management.



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