The mother of a 10-year-old girl alleged to have died after attempting a viral social media challenge last December has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, according to the Washington Post.
Tawainna Anderson said her daughter, Nylah, died in December after taking part in the “Blackout Challenge,” which encourages people to choke themselves until they pass out, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania last week.
Anderson said that on December 7, she found her daughter hanging from her bedroom closet “near the point of death.” She performed CPR on Nylah until paramedics rushed her to a hospital, where she died five days later.
For the challenge, participants choke themselves with household items like a shoelace or power cord until they blackout, with the goal of experiencing an asphyxia rush from the lack of oxygen to the brain.
“I cannot stop replaying that day in my head,” Anderson said in a statement, later adding, “It is time that these dangerous challenges come to an end so that other families don’t experience the heartbreak we live every day.”
Anderson is accusing TikTok and ByteDance of creating “a predatory and manipulative app” that “pushed exceedingly and unacceptably dangerous challenges” in front of Nylah and other children who died as a result, the Post reports.
TikTok’s “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 suit alleges. TikTok’s interface automatically recommends videos to users as they scroll the app’s main feed, known as its “For You Page.”
A forensic analysis of Nylah’s phone showed she used TikTok to watch a Blackout Challenge video when she chocked herself, Anderson’s attorney, Jeffrey Goodman, told Bloomberg News.
“TikTok is programming children for the sake of corporate profits and promoting addiction,” Anderson’s lawsuit claims. She has requested a jury trial and is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
A TikTok spokesperson told the Post that the “disturbing ‘challenge,’ which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend… We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found.”
The rep added that TikTok has made it impossible to search for videos using the hashtag #BlackoutChallenge.
Anderson’s lawsuit states that other children have died doing the Blackout Challenge after viewing it on TikTok, including a 14-year-old Australian boy in April 2020, a 10-year-old Italian girl in January 2021, a 12-year-old Colorado boy in April of that year and a 12-year-old Oklahoma boy in July 2021.
The suit describes Nylah as an “active, happy, healthy, and incredibly intelligent child” who spoke three languages by the age of 10.
In the days following her daughter’s death, Anderson told 6ABC: “Make sure you check your kids’ phones. You never know what you might find on their phones. You wouldn’t think 10-year-olds would try this. They’re trying because they’re kids and they don’t know better.”
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