The „French scar“ is a new trend among young people on the Chinese video platform TikTok. In it, young people inflict self-injury on their faces, mainly on their cheeks. For example, they film themselves pinching themselves for minutes until bruises or even scars appear. This has developed into a challenge in which the young people compete with each other to see who can inflict the worse injuries. The bruise does not always go away. In some cases, the bruise may remain as a visual blemish or the blood vessel injuries may remain permanently visible. These can only be repaired later with laser surgery.
How did the „French scar“ trend originate?
The first references to incitement to the self-injury variant „French scar“ appeared in February 2023. Videos on how best to perform the self-injury skill were also quickly found on the web. The Challenge spread throughout Europe in no time, starting in France. Due to the strong potential for danger, the Italian antitrust authority initiated investigations against the platform. It also wants to take action against the platform because it uses artificial intelligence software to influence users even more. In particular, it is said to have an eye on the algorithm, which plays advertisements that match the content shown, thus clearly reinforcing the negative impression.
The emergence of these provocative trends has also increased with the possibilities of the internet and especially social networks. Educators complain that guardians have less and less influence on what children do on the internet. They are noticing more and more frequently that boundaries are being crossed, which leads to problems whose solution actually lies in the educational responsibility. Today, children are even more successful in escaping parental or school control.
How does TikTok react to this?
The video platform TikTok has so far only reacted by claiming the opposite and declaring that it does not allow content harmful to minors on its platform. On the contrary, they are even particularly concerned about protecting young people. The platform TikTok belongs to the Chinese company ByteDance, which claims to cooperate fully with the competent authorities to answer all questions regarding guidelines. This statement is very vague and cannot be interpreted to mean that TikTok is actually willing to delete the dangerous content. It has been observed for some time that the platform puts business interests above the protection of children and young people.
Dangerous self-harm as a fad
TikTok is mainly popular with children and young people, which makes the potential danger even more obvious. The videos shown here are very often tests of courage that regularly endanger the health of those who imitate what is shown and can even be life-threatening. Parents, educators and similar interest groups therefore demand that governments intervene more strongly to stop such excesses. However, meeting this demand is difficult because of the complicated legal situation in the EU and in individual countries.
Call for consequences
There are now a number of extreme examples of the danger posed by such challenges: in 2021, the „Blackout Challenge“ led to the death of a ten-year-old girl in Palermo. The challenge was to hold your breath until you pass out. The girl could no longer be resuscitated. This and other deaths among minors in connection with life-threatening TikTok challenges caused horror worldwide. So far, it has not led to any consequences on the part of the Chinese company. Since content of this type has become extremely frequent, the EU Commission is now taking stronger action against it. The legal steps that Italy is taking show that Europe is „playing harder ball“. To what extent the action will be crowned with success cannot be said at this point.