Jonnifer Neal didn’t expect any drama when she bought her Kia. However, she also didn’t expect that the same Kia would be stolen three times within a month. According to a recent AP News article, Neal has now joined the thousands of victims of auto-thefts around the country, simply because the type of vehicle she owns is the target of a viral social media trend.
Neal’s Kia was first stolen straight from her home in Chicago, and the second auto-theft took place outside of the mechanic shop where she had previously taken it in for repairs. However, after her car was recovered by authorities a month later, she was regularly stopped by the police due to an error which still had the vehicle reported as stolen. Now, Neal is terrified of what else may happen whenever she steps foot inside her beloved Kia.
Her story is but one of, sadly, thousands of stories of Kia and Hyundai owners in major cities who have faced an irregular volume of thefts and damages to their specific vehicles the last two and a half years. Who is to blame for this? Well, some people would blame social media platforms such as TikTok for taking this trend and blowing it up.
Kia Boys made the rounds at the apartment tonight. Had a camera on them but couldn’t make out facial features or the car they sped off in.@RochesterNYPD showed up about a minute too late, though they may have also been the ones to spook them and make them run off. #ROC pic.twitter.com/s8IpWw7plR
— Barely Controlled Opposition (@BarelyControllD) May 17, 2023
The increase in thefts has been most notably attributed to viral social media trends that originated on TikTok, where criminally-minded individuals have been watching tutorials on how to use USB cables and other simple tools to exploit security flaws found in Kias and Hyundais.
Unfortunately, the thefts have continued to skyrocket across the nation despite the efforts of the two manufacturers to work with various social media platforms to attempt to take down these videos. However, as new videos continue to pop up from city to city, there always seems to be a wave of fresh thefts occurring thanks to the attention of teenagers attempting to achieve internet stardom for horrific behavior.
Authorities have labeled this specific form of behavior as “performance crime,” in which a viral social media trend promoting criminal activity convinces teenagers to go out and attempt to do the same exact thing. Teenagers are almost always the culprits, as several major police departments ranging from Milwaukee to Chicago and New York have determined.
God Save My Kia
In order to crack down in this issue, attorney generals from 17 different states have issued official calls for a mandatory recall of the specific vehicles targeted by these social media inspired criminals, stating the the voluntary software updates that the auto-manufacturers have offered owners is simply not enough.
Cities such as Baltimore, Milwaukee, and New York have even gone as far as to threaten legal action against Kia and Hyundai. Oh, and remember Jonnifer Neal? She’s currently bringing a civil suit to Kia, as are many owners who are slapping the brands with large class-action lawsuits, some of which have been settled for upwards of $200 million.
Because of this this social media originated craze, the National Highway and Safety Administration has drawn the conclusion that this trend is responsible for at least 14 vehicle crashes and eight deaths, though lawyers representing victims tied to these “Kia Boy” crimes believe the numbers may be even higher if more research was conducted.
TikTok has attempted to remove certain videos providing the tutorials, as well as accounts uploading joyrides of stolen cars. The Chinese-owned video app claims that the media is in fact what drives people to watch those videos, and that the craze doesn’t necessarily start because a video is simply uploaded. Experts have pointed out the challenge of tracking the origins of trends as content spreads so fast across other platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter.
What are your thoughts on this crazy social media trend? Let us know in the comments below and across social media.
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