One of the most popular parts of social media, especially the video sharing platform TikTok, are challenges. People, particularly young people and children, love participating in them and the online attention they receive when they do. Unfortunately, too often these TikTok challenges are dangerous. The latest of these includes the Blackout Challenge, which has now left two young children dead in their attempts to participate. The Parents of these children are now suing the platform for negligence.
Parents Suing TikTok Over Dangerous Blackout Challenge
The blackout challenge is basically what it sounds like. Film yourself choking yourself until you pass out and put it online. This challenge is not new – it has been around long before social media existed. The popular network TikTok, however, has given it a rebirth in a very profound way. Its algorithm, which is designed to direct challenges to young people’s feeds, but this dangerous challenge in front of users all across the country and even the world. Sadly, two children last year died attempting the blackout challenge. Their parents are now suing TikTok, saying that they knew the challenge was making the rounds and yet didn’t take appropriate action to stop it. (1)
In February of last year, nine-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo from Wisconsin died of asphyxiation after attempting the blackout challenge, which she found on TikTok. Similarly, eight-year-old Lalani Walton of Texas died attempting the same challenge in July of last year. She also first came across the challenge on TikTok. Arriani’s mother Christal says that her little girl loved following different TikTok trends. She regularly attempted different food trends or dances she saw going viral on the app. Her parents never imagined that TikTok challenges could have such a dark side.
Pursuing Legal Action
Together, Arriani and Lalani’s parents are pursuing legal action against TikTok for the deaths of their children. Their goal in speaking out about what happened to their own children is to prevent it from happening to any more kids.
“We just want people to be aware, because we don’t want no other children out there to be a statistic of this situation again,” said Arriani’s father Heriberto.“We want to make sure that we can save other kids.”
The Social Media Victims Law Center filed the lawsuit on their behalf, as well as that of other victims’ families. The lawsuit claims that TikTok knew that the challenge was dangerous and that children were dying attempting it. Despite this, they didn’t do enough to prevent that challenge from making it into users’ “for you” pages.
“At all times relevant, TikTok’s algorithm was designed to promote ‘TikTok Challenges‘ to young users to increase their engagement and maximize TikTok’s profits,” the lawsuit states. “TikTok outrageously took no and/or completely inadequate action to extinguish and prevent the spread of the Blackout Challenge and specifically to prevent its algorithm from directing children to the Blackout Challenge, despite notice and/or foreseeability that such a failure would inevitably lead to more injuries and deaths, including those of children,”
Not A New Game
To be clear, this challenge was not invented by a TikTok user or by TikTok itself. Seemingly first invented sometime in the 1970s, but perhaps even earlier, The Choking Game was popular for several years before becoming a trend on social media. According to the CDC, there were 82 deaths due to accidental strangling because of the game between 1995 and 2007. The victims were all between the ages of six and 12 years old. (2)