TikTok videos promoting and glorifying steroids and other performance enhancement products are pulling in hundreds of millions of views, and sometimes teenagers are the target audience, according to a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).
Researchers with CCDH, which is a non-profit watchdog group, said videos with hashtags promoting the use of steroid-like drugs were viewed up to 587 million times by U.S. users in the last three years.
In several cases, researchers identified videos in which users explicitly stated they were under the age of 18 and were taking these steroid-like drugs to reach their bodybuilding goals. One video the group found encouraged followers to “just tell your parents they’re vitamins.”
The group said other videos specifically targeted teenage boys by using the hashtags #teenfitness and #teenbodybuilding in the captions.
TikTok’s community guidelines prohibit content that promotes recreational drug use or the sale of drugs. But CCDH said they found 35 influencer accounts on the app that actively promote steroid-like drugs through brand partnerships.
“Too many young people have already died striving for a superhero physique unattainable without drugs — each one leaving behind a trail of grief,” said CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed in a press release. “It is TikTok’s job to keep the platform safe, and enforce its community rules, but our research has found that the platform turns a blind eye to the promotion of dangerous and potentially illegal drugs. At the same time, we’ve found that boys and young men are being bombarded with toxic content that seeks to promote and profit from body dysmorphia.
According to NBC News, a TikTok spokesperson criticized the report’s methodology, saying the numbers in it also include “positive content” related to recovery from drugs. CCDH responded with, "our analysis only examined hashtags where a majority of content posted with those hashtags promotes, sells or otherwise normalizes use of steroids or steroid-like drugs."
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