TikTok has been hit with lawsuits following the death of two young girls in America who were reportedly attempting the app’s “blackout challenge”.
According to the LA Times, 8-year-old Lalani Erika Walton and 9-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo died while attempting the viral challenge in which participants try to choke themselves into unconsciousness.
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The publication reports that TikTok faces wrongful death lawsuits filed on Friday 1 July in Los Angeles County Superior Court. As per the suits, which were filed by an organisation called the Social Media Victims Law Center, the video content app pushed Lalani and Arriani videos of the dangerous viral trend and did not offer the girls or their parents adequate safety features.
In Lalani’s case, her stepmother had noticed bruises on her neck, which she claimed had resulted from a fall. It is reported that she’d spend hours on TikTok and had posted numerous other videos of herself doing dancing and singing challenges.
It was in July 2021 that her algorithm started surfacing videos of the self-strangulation blackout challenge and months later, after a 20-hour trip with her stepmother, Lalani attempted the trend while her stepmother took a nap. When her stepmother woke up, she went to Lalani’s bedroom and found the girl “hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck.”
As per the suit, Lalani was “under the belief that if she posted a video of herself doing the blackout challenge, then she would become famous.
“She did not appreciate or understand the dangerous nature of what TikTok was encouraging her to do.”
ARRIANI WAS PLAYING WITH HER BROTHER WHEN SHE DIED
On 21 February 2021, Arriani and her brother Edwardo had been playing when he noticed that she was no longer moving. After rushing to tell their father, Arriani’s dad found his daughter “hanging from the family dog’s leash.”
The little girl was rushed to the hospital and placed on a ventilator, but it was too late as she had reportedly lost all brain function.
“TikTok’s product and its algorithm directed exceedingly and unacceptably dangerous challenges and video to Arriani’s feed encouraging her to engage and participate in the TikTok Blackout Challenge,” the lawsuit read.
MORE CHILDREN HAVE DIED AFTER TRYING THE TIKTOK TREND
Unfortunately, the TikTok challenge has resulted in the death of other children. Nylah Anderson, 10, accidentally hanged herself in her family’s home while trying to copy the trend.
It is further reported that other children in Italy, Australia, Colorado and Oklahoma also died.
“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 lawsuit claimed.
“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.”
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TIKTOK CLAIMS TO HAVE BLOCKED CHALLENGE
In response to the lawsuit, a TikTok spokesperson told The Washington Post that the challenge was not from the app, adding that the company has blocked the hashtag #BlackoutChallenge from its search engine.
“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 said.