TikTok, owned by China-based ByteDance, is being sued in California by parents who claimed their children died while participating in a deadly “Blackout Challenge” on the popular video-sharing social media platform.
At least 7 children under the age of 15 have died around the world while participating in the blackout challenge, in which TikTok users choke themselves with belts, ties or other similar items until they pass out from lack of oxygen
The Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC) filed two wrongful death lawsuits in Los Angeles County Superior Court Tuesday against TikTok on behalf of the parents of two girls, ages 8 and 9, who died after participating in a viral ‘blackout challenge’. in 2021. It also listed similar deaths in Italy, Australia and elsewhere as examples of which deaths have been linked to the TikTok blackout challenge.
The lawsuit (case number: 22STCV21355) alleges that 8-year-old Lalani Erika Walton of Temple, Texas, and 9-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, died by strangulation while participating in TikTok’s blackout challenge.
While Walton was found hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck in her bedroom, Arroyo was found hanging from the family dog’s leash in her basement.
The lawsuit further alleges that TikTok’s dangerous algorithm deliberately and repeatedly pushed the deadly “Blackout Challenge” into both Lalani and Arriani’s TikTok “For You Page”, encouraging them to participate in the challenge that ultimately cost their lives. It showed them random videos on their ‘For You’ pages that they might have liked based on what they’ve watched before.
“TikTok has specifically curated and determined that these Blackout Challenge videos — videos featuring users deliberately strangling themselves until they lose consciousness — are appropriate and appropriate for small children,” the lawsuit alleges.
It added that “TikTok is failing to provide underage users and their parents with adequate warnings that TikTok is addictive and leads vulnerable users to very dangerous and harmful challenges, including but not limited to the Blackout Challenge. The addictive quality of TikTok’s product and its tendency to lead young users into very dangerous challenges are unknown to underage users and their parents.”
SMVLC’s complaint says that “TikTok undoubtedly knew that the deadly Blackout Challenge was spreading through their app and that their algorithm was feeding the Blackout Challenge specifically to children.”
The company “knew or should have known that failure to act immediately and significantly to extinguish the spread of the deadly Blackout Challenge would result in more injuries and deaths, especially among children.”
Matthew P. Bergman, founder and attorney of SMVLC, has said TikTok should be held accountable for pushing deadly content to these two young girls. He added that the company has invested billions of dollars to intentionally design products that push dangerous content that it knows is dangerous and could lead to the death of its users.
The lawsuit calls on a judge to order TikTok to stop crocheting children through its algorithm and promote dangerous challenges, and to pay unspecified monetary damages, punitive damages, lost wages, medical and funeral expenses and other costs .
TikTok has not yet commented on the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
However, in December 2021, a TikTok spokesperson Mahsau Cullinane issued a statement responding to the death of a 10-year-old girl in Italy who died of suffocation after participating in a TikTok BDSM “blackout challenge”.
“This disturbing ‘challenge’, which people seem to be learning about from sources other than TikTok, has long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend. We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if it becomes available. Our deepest condolences go out to the family for this tragic loss.”