The families of two young girls who purportedly 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.
The ‘blackout’ challenge just like its name encouraged users to choke themselves until they passed out, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, July 5 in Los Angeles.
The families are seeking an unspecified amount in damages and have requested a jury trial to take place in California.
The families 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.
‘TikTok needs to be held accountable for pushing deadly content to these two young girls,’ said Matthew P Bergman, founding attorney of Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), a legal resource for parents of children harmed by social media addiction and abuse.
‘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,’
Eight-year-old Lalani Erika Renee Walton from Texas 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’, the complaint said. She often posted videos of herself singing and dancing, in hopes of becoming ‘TikTok famous’.
‘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.’
This is not the first lawsuit against the company, prompted by the ‘blackout challenge’. In May, the mother of a 10-year-old girl who choked herself to death after participating in the dangerous challenge filed a wrongful death lawsuit against TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance.
The other victim named in the suit was nine-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo 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.
On 26 February, 2021 Arroyo was found not breathing by her five-year-old brother and could not be revived.