A suicide video and the race to stop it being seen: here’s why you should stay off TikTok right now

People are being urged not to use TikTok and Facebook as the platforms work to stop the circulation of footage depicting a man’s suicide.

It’s certainly not the first time something like this has happened. In March of last year, the footage of the notorious Christchurch shooting was live-streamed on Facebook, where it remained for 12 minutes before being removed. Four months later, images of the murder of 17-year-old internet personality Bianca Devins were posted on both Instagram and Discord.

Now, both TikTok and Facebook are racing to remove graphic footage of a Mississipi man’s alleged suicide which has been circulating on both platforms.

tiktok suicide
Photo: Kon Karampelas

According to The Verge, the clip began spreading on Sunday evening after it was first live-streamed on Facebook. The video shows a bearded man sitting at a desk who proceeds to shoot himself.

People quickly began reporting the video on TikTok and warning other users to stay away from the platform, pointing out that due to the algorithmic nature of its main feed (the For You page), it could pop up at any time.

@aesthetically_80sSignal boost for others to see please this is very IMPORTANT!!!! ##fyp ##foryoupage ##TikTokFashionMonth ##AdultMoney ##foryourpage ##fy ##alt ##anime ##lgbtq♬ Silence – Silent

Others noted that the most violent part of the clip was being embedded in the middle of other videos, so as to lure unsuspecting viewers into watching it.

One user described that when this type of embedded video is reported to TikTok, it “doesn’t get pulled because it isn’t against community guidelines.”

@alluringskull##greenscreen♬ original sound – alluringskull

According to the ABC, an alert has been sent to 7,000 schools by Safe on Social, warning students and parents about the video.

“We strongly recommend keeping your children offline today if possible, and heavily supervise all social media interactions until this content is removed,” Safe on Social CEO, Kirra Pendergast described via Facebook.

“Check with your children to determine if they have viewed this clip. They are likely to be extremely distressed.” 

Pendergast described the act of embedding the video in other clips as a kind of trolling: “They’re luring kids in with videos of kittens and puppies, then it goes to this very, very graphic video.”

A TikTok spokesperson who spoke to Buzzfeed described that the platform was automatically detecting and flagging the clips, as well as deleting any accounts which have been repeatedly reposting it.

The man has now be identified as Ronnie McNutt, a 33-year-old Army veteran who had previously served in Iraq.

If you or someone you know are struggling, you can reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, and Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

For global resources, visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.