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TikTok sued following young girls’ deaths after taking ‘blackout challenge’

Jul 6, 2022, 4:29 PM
CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 27: The TikTok logo is displayed outside a TikTok office on August...
CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 27: The TikTok logo is displayed outside a TikTok office on August 27, 2020 in Culver City, California. The Chinese-owned company is reportedly set to announce the sale of U.S. operations of its popular social media app in the coming weeks following threats of a shutdown by the Trump administration. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES — Two families filed lawsuits against the social media giant TikTok last week alleging its algorithms were responsible for the deaths of two young daughters who took part in the “blackout challenge” according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Lalani Erika Walton, 8, and Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, took up the challenge by choking themselves until they become unconscious while recording it on video the report said.

Walton was from Texas and Arroyo lived in Wisconsin.

According to People.com, the challenge has been around since 2008 but resurfaced on TikTok. Other names have been used to describe the challenge like, “choking game” and “pass out game.”

In a 2008 study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 82 children died after taking part in the challenge.

“Eighty-seven percent of these deaths were among males, and most fatalities occurred among those 11 years to 16 years old: the average age was 13, the report said. At the time the CDC said 31 states reported deaths after children took the challenge.

“This report is an important first step in identifying the choking game as a public health problem,” Ileana Arias, Ph.D., director of CDC’s Injury Center in 2008 said. “More research is needed to identify risk factors that may contribute to kids playing the choking game and to determine what may help to reduce this type of behavior.”

The Los Angeles time report said the Social Media Victims Law Center filed the suit on behalf of the families.

“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 from the  SMVLC said. According to the Los Angeles Times, it also said TikTok, “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.”

The Los Angeles Times report did not include a statement from TikTok.

However, according to an NBC News report, a similar lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania in March included a statement from the company that said 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.”

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TikTok sued following young girls’ deaths after taking ‘blackout challenge’