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February 24, 2023

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What is the issue?

Our safeguarding experts have been made aware of a viral challenge circulating on TikTok using variations of the hashtag ‘foopah’. A play on the phrase ‘faux pas’ (an embarrassing public act), the trend encourages users to upload ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ nudity. This aims to get around the platform’s detection and moderation by being hidden in plain sight. Using screens, mirrors, and other reflective surfaces are just some of the ways people have taken part in the challenge.

The content itself ranges from those who are sharing more obvious sexually explicit content to suggestive but subtle imagery of themselves. The trend also creates an allure for young people who are taking to various platforms to ‘react’ to the challenge or discuss it with others online.

The challenge originated from one TikTok user as a way of promoting her Only Fans account. Her initial video, which included the subtle flashing of her breasts, gathered 2 million views in 24 hours.

As with most inappropriate or banned hashtags, different variations in spelling tend to appear as the platform detects and removes it, prompting the creation of another. The #foopahh hashtag was viewed more than 7 million times, but has since been removed. It was quickly replaced by #foopa which has now over 30 millions views.

foo pah hashtags on tiktok

Why would children and young people engage with the challenge?

Wanting to ‘go viral’

A video with a ‘hidden’ sexual image could encourage viewers to watch the video repeatedly until they find it. In doing so, the creator of the video hopes to gain better engagement . This signals to TikTok’s algorithm that the content is popular, leading to more shares and followers for the creator with the potential to ‘go viral’. Despite the account of the original creator of the challenge being suspended by TikTok, the creator claims:

“I’ve gotten more traffic in the past couple of days just from doing these new TikToks versus the regular trends,”

Source: Buzzfeed

Others may choose to engage with the challenge in a different way but with the same motive. By creating ‘reaction videos’, those searching for the hashtag may also come across these reaction videos and are likely to engage with them too.


The content produced by the challenge ranges from subtle to explicit. Those who choose to engage in a more subtle or less inappropriate way, trivialise the risk presented by sharing explicit content in a public space online. Some may choose to use the hashtag but not take part in the challenge within the video they share, to encourage viewers to study their video to find the ‘foopah’. In turn, they gain engagement and viewers without sharing an image of themselves.

Thrill-seeking behaviours

The nature of this challenge is that it entices users to find new and creative ways of continuing to get around the platform’s ability to detect and filter nudity. This can lead to a sense of achievement and validation for successfully avoiding the platform’s detection and moderation. This can fuel the desire to continue engaging in this type of behaviour.

What are the risks?

As TikTok struggles to successfully detect and moderate the viral trend, this leaves a gap where children and young people could share self-generated explicit material for public viewing. This double-edged sword puts them at risk of having illegal material shared, downloaded, and saved by any number of viewers without their consent, but also could be used maliciously against the young person as ‘digital collateral’ for blackmail, coercion, and extortion. One subreddit has over 2,000 members who are sharing the ‘foopah’ videos amongst themselves.

It is illegal to take, create, share or possess indecent images of children. If you or your child finds content like this online of another child under 18, never screenshot the post as this could be classed as an indecent image of a child. Do report it to the platform, the IWF and the police.

By taking a selfie style video that appears to be solely of their face, TikTok’s detection may miss that the creator has placed a reflective surface in the background to capture subtle nudity. If this content is not reported, it could easily remain on the platform. If it comes to the attention of a human moderator, it again has the potential to be easily missed.

“These moderators are often given seconds to decide if content is rule-breaking, and from the Foopah examples I’ve seen, it’s taken me minutes to actually spot. So even if the content is flagged by the filter, human moderators might not be able to keep up.” – Liam McLoughlin, lecturer at the University of Liverpool studying content moderation.

As a safety measure for younger users, TikTok applies default settings to accounts aged 13-15. However, if a young person has registered on the app with a false date of birth, the platform may not recognise that the content they are viewing is inappropriate for their actual age and they could be further exposed to harmful content.

Next steps and further advice

To avoid seeing age inappropriate content, ensure your child has entered the correct date of birth on the platforms they use.
To learn how to report inappropriate content, underage accounts, hashtags, and videos on TikTok, visit our Safety Centre.
To help young people make informed choices, discuss, challenges, and hoaxes with them in a friendly, casual way.
To encourage healthy discussion, try not to panic if they name the challenge. Be inquisitive, listen to what they say and remind them that even creating a reaction video or using the hashtag as clickbait still puts them at risk of unwanted contact from strangers or exposure to harmful content.
To avoid a situation where your child loses control of their image or video, remind your young person of what is appropriate to share and what isn’t. Ensure they know the consequences that can come from sharing an explicit image.
In the event that your child has posted an image or lost control of it, remain calm,
and reassure them that there are things you can do to help such as reporting it to the IWF.
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