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TikTok sued for suicides

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A Los Angeles family sues TikTok for the death of their daughters while doing the blackout challenge

Lalani Walton, 8, and Arriani Arroyo, 9, practiced a viral TikTok challenge, the ‘blackout challenge’, an unusual and potentially lethal game. It consists of self-asphyxiating until you lose consciousness. The two girls were strangled to death.

The tragedy occurred last year but it is only now that the parents have sued the social networking platform TikTok. They consider it to be to blame for their deaths. They allege that its algorithms are dangerous and incite users to choke to death.

This Tuesday they filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Represented by the Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), a legal organization for parents of children harmed by social media addiction and abuse, they allege that the platform’s “dangerous algorithm” intentionally and repeatedly pushed challenge videos. Incentivizing them to participate in the viral challenge that took their lives.

This is not the first death from dangerous viral challenges. The company has been criticized for allowing dangerous challenges to spread. Doctors reported that the 2021 “milk crate challenge,” which encouraged users to stack and climb milk crates, led to dislocated shoulders, anterior cruciate ligament tears and even spinal cord injuries.

In 2020, a 15-year-old girl died after participating in the ‘Benadryl challenge’, in which users took a large amount of antihistamines to achieve hallucinogenic effects. In 2020, two minors were charged with assault after participating in the so-called ‘skull-cracker’ challenge, which caused one victim to suffer a seizure.

All of the victims’ parents insist that the minors were trying to fulfill the challenge to become “famous” by filming themselves as they fainted. One of the deceased girls allegedly watched on TikTok more than 20 hours of these viral videos, according to a lawsuit, then hanged herself trying to fulfill the challenge.

TikTok defends that the “black challenge” challenge never went viral on its platform and predates TikTok. Some reports point to the alert emerging in 2008. Dangerous challenges are prohibited in TikTok’s terms and conditions. The company says it removes posts that invite such practices.

Now the judge will have to decide whether this challenge was disclosed on TikTok in 2021, when the two girls died and whether it was determinant in the girls’ suicide.

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