Tik Tok, the popular new social media platform allows its users to post short videos and share them with other users. The new platform gained mass popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and now boasts over 1 billion active monthly users. However, the platform has a long and controversial history when looking at its time in the US.
In June 2022, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles against the popular social platform. The lawsuit alleges that Tik Tok’s specialized algorithm “intentionally and repeatedly” pushed videos depicting a “Blackout Challenge” to two young girls. The blackout challenge essentially had users film themselves purposefully strangulate themselves until losing consciousness.
The lawsuit states that after the Tik Tok algorithm promoted the Blackout Challenge to each of the girls, both girls passed away from self-strangulation. Additionally, the lawsuit points to other young children in Italy, Australia, and other countries whose deaths have also been linked to the Tik Tok Blackout Challenge.
The parents of the two young girls, ages 8 and 9, brought the wrongful death suit in hopes of holding Tik Tok accountable for pushing deadly content to its young users. An attorney at the Social Media Victims Law Center, Matthew Bergman, stated “TikTok has invested billions of dollars to intentionally design products that push dangerous content that it knows are dangerous and can result in the deaths of its users.”
In the past, Tik Tok has been criticized for it dangerously addictive algorithm. Specifically, the way dangerous trends and challenges are able to spread on the app with no regulation. The wrongful death lawsuit also pointed to other dangerous Tik Tok challenges. Most notably, during the Coronavirus pandemic, users were posting videos of them licking random public objects and surfaces coining the name “Coronavirus Challenge.”
In 2020, two New Jersey minors were charged with assault after participating in another deadly Tik Tok trend the “Skull Breaker” challenge. The Skull Breaker challenge had users kicking the legs out from under another person jumping so that they flip over and hit their heads.
In addition to pushing deadly content, the lawsuit also claims Tik Tok allows underage users on the app and fails to warn users or their legal guardians of the app’s addictive nature.
Attorneys for the Social Media Victims Law Center claim that Tik Tok knowingly has allowed dangerous content to trend on the platform because it increases engagement, user numbers, and profit.
Tik Tok has made no public comment regarding the wrongful death suit brought in Los Angeles regarding the Blackout Challenge.