Famous social media platform, TikTok has been hit with a lawsuit by families whose daughter allegedly died following a TikTok challenge they were involved in.
The families of two young girls sued the social media platform, claiming its “dangerous” algorithms are to blame for their children’s deaths.
The two young ladies died in 2021 following a challenge #Blackout_Challenge, which encouraged users on the platform to choke themselves until they passed out.
The parents of the two girls filed a suit on Tuesday, July 5, in the Los Angeles county superior court.
Represented by the Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), a legal resource for parents of children harmed by social media addiction and abuse, they allege the platform’s “dangerous algorithm intentionally and repeatedly” pushed videos of the challenge into the children’s feeds, incentivizing them to participate in the challenge that ultimately took their lives.
The founding attorney of SVLC, Matthew P. Bergman said;
“TikTok needs to be held accountable for pushing deadly content to these two young girls,”
“TikTok has invested billions of dollars to intentionally design products that push dangerous content that it knows is dangerous and can result in the deaths of its users.”
One victim, eight-year-old Lalani Erika Renee Walton of Temple, Texas, is described as “an extremely sweet and outgoing young girl” who “loved dressing up as a princess and playing with makeup”. She died on 15 July 2021 in what police determined was “a direct result of attempting TikTok’s ‘Blackout Challenge’,” according to the complaint.
“Lalani had received a phone for her eighth birthday in April 2021 and quickly became addicted to watching TikTok videos. She often posted videos of herself singing and dancing, in hopes of becoming “TikTok famous”.
“In July 2021, her family began noticing bruising on Lalani’s neck, which she explained away as an accident. Unbeknownst to them, she had begun participating in the blackout challenge, which had first shown up on her feed weeks before.”
On the day of her death, Lalani had spent hours on a family road trip watching videos, including posts of the challenge.
“She was also under the belief that if she posted a video of herself doing the Blackout Challenge, then she would become famous and so she decided to give it a try,” the complaint said. “Lalani was eight years old at the time and did not appreciate or understand the dangerous nature of what TikTok was encouraging her to do.”
The other victim named in the suit, nine-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, received a phone when she was seven years old and used TikTok multiple times a day, according to the complaint. “She gradually became obsessive about posting dance videos on TikTok and became addicted to the app.”
In January 2021, Arriani’s family discussed with her an incident of a young TikTok user dying as the result of a challenge, but Arriani assured them she would never participate in dangerous videos.
However, on 26 February 2021, she was found not breathing by her five-year-old brother. She was rushed to a local hospital but ultimately taken off life support.
“TikTok unquestionably knew that the deadly Blackout Challenge was spreading through their app and that their algorithm was specifically feeding the Blackout Challenge to children, including those who have died,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit lists a number of complaints against TikTok, including that its algorithm promotes harmful content, allows underage users on the app, and it fails to warn users or their legal guardians of the app’s addictive nature.