The families of two young girls who allegedly died as a result of trying out a viral social media challenge are suing TikTok.
The two girls, aged eight and nine years old, died taking part in a ‘blackout challenge’ that went viral on TikTok last year and claimed a number of children’s lives.
The ‘blackout challenge’ urges users to try to hold their breath until they pass out, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, July 5 in Los Angeles.
The families are seeking an unspecified amount in damages and have requested a jury trial to take place in California.
According to the bereaved families, the app’s “dangerous” algorithms are to blame for their children’s deaths—they claim the platform’s “dangerous algorithm intentionally and repeatedly” pushed videos of the challenge into the children’s feeds, incentivizing them to participate in the challenge that ultimately took their lives.
“TikTok needs to be held accountable for pushing deadly content to these two young girls,’ said Matthew P Bergman, founding attorney of Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC), a legal resource for parents of children harmed by social media addiction and abuse.
Eight-year-old Lalani Erika Renee Walton from Texas died on July 15, 2021 in what police determined was “a direct result of attempting TikTok’s “blackout challenge,” according to the complaint.
The little girl had received a phone for her eighth birthday in April 2021 and ‘quickly became addicted to watching TikTok videos’, the complaint said. She often posted videos of herself singing and dancing in hopes of becoming “TikTok famous.”
“She was also under the belief that if she posted a video of herself doing the Blackout Challenge, then she would become famous and so she decided to give it a try,. Lalani was eight years old at the time and did not appreciate or understand the dangerous nature of what TikTok was encouraging her to do.” the complaint said.
This is not the first lawsuit against the company prompted by the “blackout challenge.” In May, the mother of a 10-year-old girl who choked herself to death after participating in the dangerous challenge filed a wrongful death lawsuit against TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance.
According to the Pennsylvania mother, Tawainna Anderson, her 10-year-old daughter choked to death after taking part in the risky social media challenge. Read here.