An American family is suing TikTok after their 10-year-old girl choked herself to death allegedly while participating in a viral challenge on the video-sharing platform last year.
Nylah Anderson was discovered unconcious in her bedroom in suburban Philadelphia in December 2021, according to a formal complaint filed in the federal court. She was reportedly attempting a viral “blackout challenge” and spent five days in an intensive care unit before succumbing to her injures.
Her mother Tawainna Anderson accused TikTok and its parent company ByteDance of negligence and having a “defective design”, alleging that her daughter attempted the challenge after seeing a TikTok video and died of asphyxiation.
She said the dangerous dare was “was thrust in front” of her TikTok feed by the algorithm that was tailored to the interests of a 10-year old.
“Algorithm determined that the deadly blackout challenge was well-tailored and likely to be of interest to 10-year-old Nylah Anderson and she died as a result,” she said in the complaint.
The “blackout challenge” encouraged users to choke themselves till they pass out and regain consciousness on camera. The challenge has allegedly led to similar deaths in the past.
The platform did not immediately repond to the lawsuit, but said in a prior statement in reponse to Anderson’s death: “This disturbing challenge, which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform.”
In a press conferance, Ms Anderson broke down as she said: “I cannot stop replaying this day in my head.”
“The unbreakable bond in our family is now shattered and void,” she added, describing her child as an active, happy, healthy, and incredibly intelligent girl who spoke three languages.
“It is time that these dangerous challenges come to an end so that other families don’t experience the heartbreak that we live everyday,” she said.
According to Ms Anderson’s attorney, a forensic analysis of Nylah’s phone showed that the application was in use at the time she was discovered unconscious.
“Nylah endured hellacious suffering as she struggled and fought for breath and slowly asphyxiated until near the point of death,” the lawsuit said.
The challenge is linked to at least four other deaths of children who took the dare, according to the lawsuit.
The growing popularlity of social media platforms and aggressive algorithms has led young users to perform dangerous stunts, including climbing pyramids of stacked milk crates, licking toilet seats for coronavirus challenge and eating corncobs attached to power drills.
“Social media superpowers like the TikTok defendants have seized the opportunity presented by the digital wild west to manipulate and control the behavior of vulnerable children to maximize attention dedicated to their social media platforms and thus maximize revenues and profits, all while shirking any safety responsibilities whatsoever,” the lawsuit said.