TikTok sued over the deaths of two young girls after they copied viral 'blackout challenge'

vt-author-image

By Asiya Ali

Article saved!Article saved!

TikTok is facing wrongful death lawsuits after two young girls died after trying to recreate the viral "blackout challenge" videos seen on the social media platform.

As reported by The Los Angeles Times, the suits allege that eight-year-old Lalani Erika Walton and nine-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo both died after watching hours of the videos featuring the challenge - allegedly served to them by TikTok’s algorithm.

Walton, from Texas, was found "hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck" in her bedroom. The suit states that the police took her devices and told her stepmother that she had been watching 'Blackout Challenge' videos "on repeat".

Arroyo, from Milwaukee, was found "hanging from the family dog's leash" in her basement, according to the suit. She was taken to the hospital and put on a ventilator, but had lost all brain function and was eventually taken off life support.

wp-image-1263157771 size-full
Featured image credit: Michele Ursi / Alamy.

Per Business Insider, the 'Blackout Challenge' has been connected to at least four other deaths of children from the ages of 10 to 14 in Australia, Italy, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

The lawsuits - which were filed in Los Angeles on Friday - claim that the social media platform "invested billions of dollars" to "intentionally design and develop its product to encourage, enable, and push content to teens and children".

It also adds that the platform was aware the viral content it was distributing was "problematic" and "highly detrimental" to its minor users' mental well-being.

Per The Los Angeles Times, the Social Media Victims Law Center's complaint also states: "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."

The complaint declared that the company "knew or should have known that failing to take immediate and significant action to extinguish the spread of the deadly Blackout Challenge would result in more injuries and deaths, especially among children."

A TikTok spokesperson responded to the lawsuit and told The Washington Post that the "disturbing 'challenge,' which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, 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 found," the spokesperson continued, adding that the company has blocked the hashtag '#BlackoutChallenge' from its search engine.

wp-image-1263160527 size-full
Credit: TikTok

These sorts of viral challenges - normally built around a hashtag that makes it easy to go viral and find in one place - are a significant part of the platform's culture. Most are harmless, often encouraging users to lip-sync a particular song or mimic a dance move.

However, some have proved to be more dangerous as injuries have been reported from attempts to re-create videos from the 'Fire Challenge', 'Milk Crate Challenge', 'Benadryl Challenge', to name but a few.

Our thoughts go out to Walton and Arroyo's family and loved ones at this time.

Featured image credit: Geoff Smith / Alamy

TikTok sued over the deaths of two young girls after they copied viral 'blackout challenge'

vt-author-image

By Asiya Ali

Article saved!Article saved!

TikTok is facing wrongful death lawsuits after two young girls died after trying to recreate the viral "blackout challenge" videos seen on the social media platform.

As reported by The Los Angeles Times, the suits allege that eight-year-old Lalani Erika Walton and nine-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo both died after watching hours of the videos featuring the challenge - allegedly served to them by TikTok’s algorithm.

Walton, from Texas, was found "hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck" in her bedroom. The suit states that the police took her devices and told her stepmother that she had been watching 'Blackout Challenge' videos "on repeat".

Arroyo, from Milwaukee, was found "hanging from the family dog's leash" in her basement, according to the suit. She was taken to the hospital and put on a ventilator, but had lost all brain function and was eventually taken off life support.

wp-image-1263157771 size-full
Featured image credit: Michele Ursi / Alamy.

Per Business Insider, the 'Blackout Challenge' has been connected to at least four other deaths of children from the ages of 10 to 14 in Australia, Italy, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

The lawsuits - which were filed in Los Angeles on Friday - claim that the social media platform "invested billions of dollars" to "intentionally design and develop its product to encourage, enable, and push content to teens and children".

It also adds that the platform was aware the viral content it was distributing was "problematic" and "highly detrimental" to its minor users' mental well-being.

Per The Los Angeles Times, the Social Media Victims Law Center's complaint also states: "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."

The complaint declared that the company "knew or should have known that failing to take immediate and significant action to extinguish the spread of the deadly Blackout Challenge would result in more injuries and deaths, especially among children."

A TikTok spokesperson responded to the lawsuit and told The Washington Post that the "disturbing 'challenge,' which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, 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 found," the spokesperson continued, adding that the company has blocked the hashtag '#BlackoutChallenge' from its search engine.

wp-image-1263160527 size-full
Credit: TikTok

These sorts of viral challenges - normally built around a hashtag that makes it easy to go viral and find in one place - are a significant part of the platform's culture. Most are harmless, often encouraging users to lip-sync a particular song or mimic a dance move.

However, some have proved to be more dangerous as injuries have been reported from attempts to re-create videos from the 'Fire Challenge', 'Milk Crate Challenge', 'Benadryl Challenge', to name but a few.

Our thoughts go out to Walton and Arroyo's family and loved ones at this time.

Featured image credit: Geoff Smith / Alamy