Parents Sue TikTok, Saying Children Died After Viewing ‘Blackout Challenge’

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TikTok sued after girls die during ‘blackout challenge’

The families of two young girls who allegedly died after attempting a viral challenge are suing TikTok. The families contend that their children’s deaths were caused by the app’s “dangerous” algorithms. The two girls, who were 8 and 9 years old, perished while participating in a “blackout challenge,” which went viral on TikTok last year and claimed the lives of several kids.

TikTok sued after girls die during ‘blackout challenge’
TikTok sued after girls die during ‘blackout challenge’

According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, July 5 in Los Angeles, the “blackout” challenge encouraged participants to choke themselves until they passed out. The families want a jury trial to take place in California and are suing for an unspecified amount of damages. The families claim that the platform’s “dangerous algorithm” allegedly placed videos of the challenge in the children’s feeds on purpose and repeatedly, encouraged them to take part in the challenge that would ultimately claim their lives.

According to Matthew P. Bergman, founding attorney of the Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), legal aid for parents of kids harmed by social media addiction and abuse, “TikTok needs to be held accountable for pushing deadly content to these two young girls.”

“TikTok has spent billions of dollars designing products that purposefully push hazardous content that it knows is hazardous and could cause the deaths of its users,” Lalani Erika Renee Walton, an eight-year-old from Texas, passed away on July 15, 2021, and police determined that she had attempted TikTok’s “blackout” challenge.

For her eighth birthday in April 2021, Lalani received a phone, and according to the complaint, she “quickly developed an addiction to watching TikTok videos.” She frequently shared videos of herself dancing and singing in the hopes of becoming well-known on TikTok. She also thought that posting a video of herself performing the Blackout Challenge would make her famous, so she decided to try it, according to the complaint. Lalani was eight years old at the time, so she was too young to recognize or comprehend the danger in what TikTok was urging her to do. The “blackout challenge” has been the cause of other lawsuits against the company in addition to this one.

The mother of a 10-year-old girl who choked herself to death after taking the risky challenge sued TikTok and ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, for her daughter’s wrongful death in May. Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, age 9, who received a phone when she was seven years old and “gradually became obsessive” about posting dance videos on TikTok and “became addicted” to the app, was the other victim listed in the lawsuit.

Arroyo was discovered unresponsive and not breathing on February 26, 2021, by her five-year-old brother. The complaint claimed that TikTok “unquestionably knew” that the deadly Blackout Challenge was being spread via their app and that their algorithm was specifically feeding the challenge to children, including those who have already died.

TikTok is being sued on the grounds that its algorithm encourages harmful content, permits the use of minors, and fails to inform users or their legal guardians of the app’s addictive nature.

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