May 18, 2022 – Popular video-sharing app TikTok has released a statement on the controversy that ensued after a TikToker, boasting millions of followers on the platform, posted a clip of her posing by a forest fire on the Margalla Hills in Islamabad.
The controversial video has been picked up by several local and international news outlets. According to a report by AFP, Humaira Asghar, who has over 11 million followers on TikTok, uploaded a video that showed her walking theatrically in a silver ball gown with a burning hillside in the background. She captioned the video, “Fire erupts wherever I am.”
It was not long before the video went viral on social media and flak started mounting on the TikToker. A number of people expressed their anger and shock at what they said was “a dangerous act” and “sheer ignorance and madness” for publicity that could harm the environment and culminate in grave consequences. The video came just days after police had already arrested a man in Abbottabad for intentionally lighting a fire in the woods to serve as a background for a video.
“Any content that promotes dangerous or illegal behaviour would be a violation of our Community Guidelines,” says a TikTok spokesperson. “We work to either remove, limit or label content that depicts dangerous or illegal acts.”
The report adds that a statement was released by Asghar through her assistant following the controversy. She claimed that she did not start the fire seen in the clip and that there was “no harm in making videos”. The controversial clip has since been removed from TikTok but is available on other social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.
“She should have been holding a bucket of water to extinguish the fire instead of glamourising it,” Rina Saeed Khan Satti, Chairperson of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, told AFP. According to her, at least one other blaze in the hills this week was started for a social media video. “The message these videos are sending is too risky and it needs to be contained.”
According to latest reports, a case has been registered against Asghar by the Islamabad police.
Forest fires are caused by blistering heat and are common from mid-April through to the end of July. Lightning and slash-and-burn farming are also among other factors that contribute to forest blazes. According to the Global Climate Risk Index compiled by NGO Germanwatch, Pakistan ranks as the eighth most vulnerable country to extreme weather resulting from climate change. But experts lament there is a lack of awareness among people regarding environmental issues.
TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps around the world with reportedly one billion monthly active users. But where it has turned out to be a viable entertainment and business platform, some users often go overboard in a bid to gain exposure fast through virality, risking their own lives and of those around them.