Two families have filed a wrongful death lawsuits against the Chinese social media giant TikTok.
The lawsuits were filed by the families of Lalani Erika Walton, 8, and Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, who both died while attempting the viral “black out challenge” that had went viral on TikTok.
Filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, the lawsuit alleges that the girls were victims of the app’s algorithm.
“According to TikTok, its proprietary algorithm is ‘a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user…each person’s feed is unique and tailored to that specific individual,'” the documents, obtained by Radar Online state. “In other words, TikTok has specifically curated and determined that these Blackout Challenge videos – videos featuring users who purposefully strangulate themselves until losing consciousness – are appropriate and fitting for small children.”
On February 26, 2021, Arroyo was found “hanging from the family dog’s leash.”
She was found alive, but had to be placed on a ventilator and life support at the hospital. She was left with no brain function at all.
Eventually, the family decided to take her off of life support and she passed away.
Five months later, on July 15, 2021, Walton was watching videos during a car ride and discovered the “blackout challenge.” When they got home, they went swimming and the stepmother went to take a nap.
When she woke up, she found the eight year old “hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck.”
The court filing says that the girl was “under the belief that if she posted a video of herself doing the Blackout Challenge, then she would become famous.”
The court filing contends that TikTok designs its algorithms to “addict users and cause them to spend as much time on the application as possible through advanced analytics that create a variable reward system tailored to user’s viewing habits and interests.”
The families also argued that the social media giant does not do enough to keep children off their platform.
“TikTok purports to have a minimum age requirement of 13-years-old but does little to verify user’s age or enforce its age limitations despite having actual knowledge that use by underage users is widespread. TikTok knows that hundreds of thousands of children as young as six years old are currently using its social media product but undertakes no attempt to identify such users and terminate their usage,” the families claim.
The lawsuit additionally argues that TikTok does nothing to “prevent young users from being affirmatively directed to highly dangerous content such as the Blackout Challenges.”
“TikTok has invested billions of dollars to intentionally design and develop its product to encourage, enable, and push content to teens and children that Defendant knows to be problematic and highly detrimental to its minor users’ mental health,” the lawsuit says, according to Radar’s report.