TikTok Sued Over Several Girls’ Deaths in Viral Blackout Challenge

tiktok lawsuit
TikTok, the wildly popular video app, is being hit with multiple lawsuits on behalf of families of girls who say it is a defective product and that their viral blackout challenge claimed the lives of several young girls who wanted to become “TikTok famous.” According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times, the grieving parents allege in lawsuits that TikTok pushed their children videos of the dangerous trend, is designed to be addictive and did not offer the girls or their parents adequate safety features.

Lethal Viral Challenge

Lalani Walton, an 8-year-old girl from Texas, who was an avid TikToker, was found hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck after she apparently took the lethal blackout challenge where people are encouraged to choke themselves until they lose consciousness due to a lack of oxygen. The lawsuits allege the platform’s algorithms nudge young, vulnerable users toward taking on the dangerous challenge, even though the company had denied this allegation. Arriani Arroyo, a 9-year-old girl from Milwaukee, also became gradually obsessive with TikTok, her parents said. On Feb. 26, 2021, her dad and siblings found Arriani hanging from the family dog’s leash. A lawsuit filed by her parents says “TikTok’s product and its algorithm directed exceedingly and unacceptably dangerous challenges and videos” to Arriani’s feed encouraging her to engage and participate in it. A number of children, ages 10 to 14 and younger, have reportedly died under similar circumstances while attempting the blackout challenge. The lawsuits allege that TikTok knew about the danger of this challenge and how it could harm children, but failed to take necessary action to stop its spread. Sadly, these challenges are not restricted to TikTok. There have been similar challenges on YouTube such as the Tide Pod challenge and cinnamon challenge, both of which experts warned could be dangerous. In 2014, another challenge famously led two preteen girls to stab a friend 19 times.

The Issue of Product Liability

While social media platforms have long been accused of hosting harmful content, a federal law known as Section 230 makes it difficult to sue these platforms. However, the current lawsuits sidestep that obstacle by framing the blackout challenge deaths as a failure of product design rather than content moderation. It is presenting a consumer safety argument to hold a corporation responsible for wrongful deaths. As product defect lawyers, we are in absolute agreement that not just TikTok, but all social media platforms, are essentially designed products for customer use. And all those who provide products for customer use have a responsibility to make and/or design products that are safe for consumers. Hawking a dangerous challenge and nudging young children toward choking themselves is beyond irresponsible. We hope this legal action will help block such dangerous content online. Source: https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2022-07-01/tiktok-sued-over-death-of-two-young-girls-in-viral-blackout-challenge  

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