A Douyin influencer who livestreamed her suicide has prompted other users to question the social media platform’s prevention efforts and the “baiting crowd” phenomenon on China’s version of TikTok.
What happened: Luo Xiao Maomao, 25, posted a video on Douyin on the afternoon of Oct. 14, where she explained that she had been severely depressed and “had reached her lowest point,” according to SupChina.
Luo thanked her more than 760,000 fans “for everything,” adding that the video would probably be the last one she would publish. “If you want to know why I said that, come watch my livestream later,” Luo continued.
During the fashion influencer’s livestream later that day, around 1,200 viewers witnessed her drink a bottle of pesticide, which led some of them to debate whether her actions were serious or a stunt.
Luo eventually grabbed her throat, unable to stop gagging.
The influencer reportedly turned off her camera and called an ambulance. She was later taken to a hospital, where she died the following day.
Cry for help: Following the news of her death, some social media users wondered if it could have been prevented had Douyin intervened after Luo’s post that afternoon.
Some netizens even condemned those who indirectly caused her death and called them “cold-blooded murderers.” One Weibo user said the livestream was Luo’s final cry for help and called the people who urged her to commit suicide “pure monsters.”
Doudou Rongyi E, a Douyin user who was a close friend of Luo, revealed that it was not her intention to end her life during that livestream. She was allegedly trying to catch the attention of her ex-boyfriend, Zhào Ruòlín, Global Times reported via 8Days.
Zhào, a basketball player, has over 2 million followers on Douyin. According to Doudou, Luo became the target of the basketball player's envious female fans after they began dating. Luo tried to reconcile her relationship with Zhào since their breakup over the summer.
Comments during Luo’s livestream included “Oh, my God” and “Good for you” as she showed difficulty breathing. One user, who has been banned on Douyin following Luo’s death, wrote, "Haha, you really did it" after she drank the pesticide.
Luo’s death is another case of "baiting crowd," a form of phenomenon where a group of unified anger that people have toward another person threatening to commit actions such as self-harm and suicide. A similar incident went viral in 2018 when people cheered for a sexual assault victim after she jumped from a building to her death in Qingyang, Gansu Province, China.
Criticism: Other netizens also questioned Douyin’s delayed response in preventing the suicide from happening. The platform has an option that lets users report "harmful content" that may promote self-harm or suicide.
A Zhihu user allegedly reported the video to Douyin that afternoon, but moderators deemed that the post was not against its community guidelines. However, Douyin retracted its initial decision 12 hours after Luo’s last livestream.
The social media platform asserted its stance against harassment and bullying in its statement shared after Luo’s death. It also released a list of banned accounts that failed to follow its community guidelines.
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