A Pennsylvania mother is suing TikTok over the death of her 10-year-old child.
According to CBS Philadelphia, Tawainna Anderson filed the wrongful death lawsuit on Thursday, approximately five months after her daughter, Nylah, participated in the “Blackout Challenge.” The complaint states the viral stunt, which encourages users to choke themselves until they pass out, was featured on Nylah’s “For You” page, which uses an algorithm to recommend videos based on a user’s interest.
On Dec. 7, Nylah was reportedly found unconscious in her mother’s bedroom closet. Anderson said she found her daughter hanging by her neck from a purse strap, and immediately rushed her to the hospital. Nylah remained in the intensive care unit until her death on Dec. 12. Anderson argues TikTok is culpable in the tragedy, as its algorithm promotes dangerous stunts, such as the viral Milk Crate Challenge, to young users.
“The TikTok Defendants’ 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,” the complaint alleges. “The TikTok Defendants’ app and algorithm are intentionally designed to maximize user engagement and dependence and powerfully encourage children to engage in a repetitive and dopamine-driven feedback loop by watching, sharing, and attempting viral challenges and other videos. TikTok is programming children for the sake of corporate profits and promoting addiction.”
The complaint also points to other fatalities that may have resulted from the dangerous challenge. One of the alleged victims was 12-year-old Joshua Haileyesus, who died last year after he was found unconscious in his Colorado home. His family said the child may have tried to choke himself with a shoelace while taking part in the “Blackout Challenge.”
“I want to hold this company accountable,” Anderson said. “It is time that these dangerous challenges come to an end, that other families don’t experience the heartbreak we live every day.”
She is suing the social media platform for wrongful death, strict products liability, and negligence. She is seeking unspecified damages.
“This disturbing ‘challenge,’ which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement. “We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family for their tragic loss.”