A desperate mother has been forced to change her daughter’s school after cyberbullies who set up ‘hate’ TikTok accounts using her name and photos turned her classmates against her.
Shelley Dale, 46, from Essex, feared for daughter Talia’s life after the now 13-year-old received months of abuse from school friends who were convinced she had created the profiles to pick on another girl.
Talia claimed she was sent abusive messages on TikTok, including being called an ‘ugly b***h’ and telling her to ‘kill herself’, after the fake accounts – made to look as though the Year 7 student had set them up – called a classmate ‘a pig’, ‘fat’, ‘ugly’ and a ‘s**t’.
Despite Talia protesting her innocence, and complaining to TikTok, she claimed the social media site refused to remove the profiles, leading to Shelley reporting it to the school and the police – who called it ‘the worst case of online bullying they had seen’.
But they later dropped the investigation, and Shelley claims police told her that TikTok had refused to give out any personal information on who had set up the fake profiles, because they said it was against the account holder’s human rights.
A TikTok spokesperson said: TikTok was built to provide a positive place for creativity, and we prioritise the safety and wellbeing of our users. Bullying & Harassment is strictly against our Community Guidelines and content of that sort is removed. We have taken action in this case, banning one account and removing content from another that violates our Guidelines.’
Shelley Dale, 46, (left) from Essex, was forced to change the school her daughter Talia, 13, (right) went to after she became a victim of cyber bullying
‘When Talia came to me back in May and told me what was happening, I was shocked and angry as I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do this to her,’ explained Shelley.
‘Talia had been added to the TikTok accounts and when she saw them, and realised they were pretending to be her, she commented “who is this?” – but then she was instantly blocked.
‘That has been her defence as you can’t block yourself from one of your own accounts – but her so-called friends wouldn’t listen.
‘These fake accounts were posting awful messages about one of Talia’s friends – calling her terrible names and making horrendous videos.
‘Then Talia started to receive so many awful private messages from school classmates because everyone thought it was Talia behind the accounts.
‘Things like “everyone knows it’s you, just own up”, “you’re a jealous b***h” and “go kill yourself”.
When she was 12, a fake ‘hate’ TikTok account was set up using her name and photos which started sending mean messages to her classmates
‘It was very hard seeing Talia so upset knowing I couldn’t fix it. All I could do was keep telling her that I’ll fight to find out who did this to her.
‘But it was totally out of our control. She was so shocked, upset and very lonely as the nasty messages kept flooding in.’
Talia initially told her mother about the fake TikTok profiles during the first coronavirus lockdown in May, telling her she was getting the blame for the ‘hate’ accounts that were making abusive videos about one of her friends.
The footage called the classmate, who doesn’t want to be named, a string of derogatory names including ‘a pig’, ‘fat’, ‘ugly’ and a ‘s**t’.
Shelley said the account went to ‘great calculating lengths’ to make it look like it was Talia who had set it up, including leaving a photo of the teenager as a ‘draft’ – which made it seem like she had posted it ‘by mistake’.
The worried mother said this convinced Talia’s classmates it was her behind the accounts because they felt they had ‘proof.’
Talia’s friends then set up groups on other online platforms such as Snapchat to send abusive messages about her.
Despite protesting her innocence, Talia’s classmates didn’t believe her and started sending nasty comments her way
This spread to include students from all year groups in Talia’s school, as well as students from another local school – who all sent her abusive messages.
Shelley reported the accounts to TikTok but they allegedly failed to respond, so she reported the site to Talia’s school, which she does not want to name, and Essex Police.
‘TikTok was ignoring my messages when I tried to report the accounts and only took one of the fake profiles down but it took five days,’ Shelley claimed.
‘One of the other accounts is still active as the social media site has ignored my plea to remove it – even though I have told them that the police are involved.’
MailOnline understands that one of the abusive accounts posted a single video which removed for violating TikTok’s guidelines on Bullying & Harassment, and the user then cancelled the account themself.
A second hate account, posing as Talia, was banned in November for violating Bullying & Harassment rules.
‘The police have taken it very seriously and said it was one of the worst forms of online bullying they’d seen.
‘Both the Met and Essex police were involved and a report was taken from my daughter and we gave them all the evidence we had as we had videoed everything from both accounts.
‘We were informed the police would contact TikTok to find out who set up the accounts and criminal action would be taken against them.’
It was only when Shelley (right) got Essex Police involved that the mean comments being directed at Talia started to stop coming in
Shelley said once Talia’s classmates heard the police were involved, the student received fewer abusive messages – but Talia had already lost all her friends.
Shelley thought getting the ‘hate’ account closed down would be straight-forward, but she was told by the police that her daughter’s case had to be closed.
She claimed she was informed that TikTok had refused to give out any personal information behind who had set up the fake profiles, as they said it was against the account holder’s human rights.
Talia was so upset about having to go to school and being an ‘easy target’ for bullies, her mother took the drastic action of changing her school.
‘Talia’s confidence was so low and she lost all her friends, including the ones she’d attended primary school with,’ she explained. ‘After a week of the bullying, Talia said to me that she wouldn’t be able to go back to school as they won’t leave her alone.
‘At first I said it’ll be fine and all forgotten about, but I could see the effect it had on her and there was no way she could have gone back in September without the culprit being named.
‘So she left happily in March after the lockdown announcement with lots of friends including the one the account was about and then never went back or has seen them since. But her new school is amazing and she has some lovely new friends.’
Shelley posted the details of the suffering her daughter went through on Facebook and has also set up a petition to put pressure on social media sites to put an end to cyber bullying
Shelley has now started a petition against cyberbullying as she believes the law needs to change so that bullies ‘lose their human rights as soon as they do things like this’.
The family wants the law to impact social media platforms, and believes the law needs to be changed.
She added: ‘Talia now wants to help try and stop this happening to anyone else. The police asked my daughter what she wanted the outcome of this to be and all she said was “I just want to know who did this to me.”‘
‘It’s such a common problem; there are other kids going through this that are feeling so lost, angry, depressed and lonely and too embarrassed or frightened to tell anyone.
‘In an ideal world we could keep our kids off these social platforms until they’re all 18 but this isn’t the time we live in.
‘It’s how they communicate with their friends, arrange meet ups, discuss any problems and do school work etc.
‘It’s just important parents have access to their accounts, follow them and build trust so they can be open about everything.’