Social media platform TikTok recently got serious flak for hosting videos of the ‘blackout challenge’ — an infamous trend that resulted in the deaths of multiple children.
It picked up steam across the last two years, is an old ‘playground dare’ that’s lasted for generations, and is deeply tied to a long history of bullying and peer pressure. The challenge is simple — users are encouraged to choke themselves long enough to pass out, seemingly to show off that they’ve ‘got the guts’ to do so.
This Tuesday, parents took legal action against the Chinese-owned social media company a year after two young girls died as a ‘direct result’ of attempting the challenge. The parents filed their suit in Los Angeles County superior court, and were represented by the Social Media Victims Law Centre (SMVLC).
The SMVLC was founded by Matthew P. Bergman, an attorney and law professor who has spent years working as a litigation expert, even testifying before US Congress.
“TikTok needs to be held accountable for pushing deadly content to these two young girls,” said Bergman, speaking to The Guardian. “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.”
The two children whose deaths the lawsuit concerns are eight-year-old Lalani Erika Renee Walton from Texas, and nine-year-old Arriani Jaileen Arroyo of Wisconsin. Both kids received phones under the age of eight, and developed strong ‘addictions’ to the app, according to the court complaint.
In Arriani’s case, her parents even discussed an early case where the challenge resulted in a young boy’s death. While she assured her family that she wouldn’t participate in such a challenge, she was soon found lying unconscious a month later in February 2021 by her five-year-old brother. Arriani was taken to a local hospital, but eventually had to be taken off life support.
TikTok, meanwhile, has not responded to requests for comment. During the last few years, the platform has hosted plenty of dangerous and irresponsible ‘challenges’.
Two minors were charged back in 2020 for taking part in the ‘Skull Breaker Challenge’, which resulted in broken bones and serious head trauma for several kids across the world.
2021 saw an explosion of cases in ACL tears, spinal cord injuries, and dislocated shoulders, as users attempted the ‘Milk Crate Challenge’, where participants were encouraged to stack up milk crates, and balance on top of them.
TikTok has also allowed a ‘Benadryl Challenge,’ where users were encouraged to consume large amounts of antihistamines. Seeking a hallucinogenic effect, several participants fell ill, with one 15-year-old girl dying as a result.
According to the SMVLC, TikTok deserves harsh measures for ‘knowingly’ allowing these trends to proliferate, increase engagement online, and grow their net revenue.
“TikTok prioritized greater corporate profits over the health and safety of its users and, specifically, over the health and safety of vulnerable children. TikTok knew or should have known were actively using its social media product,” they said.
(Featured Image Credits: Unsplash)