TikTok Faces Algorithm Related Lawsuit After Child Dies From Viral ‘Blackout’ Challenge
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Topline

TikTok and its parent company, Bytedance, are being sued and blamed for negligence and a defective product as a result of its algorithm after 10-year-old Nylah Anderson died from participating in a choking challenge that circulated on the app

Key Facts

Anderson’s mother, Tawainna Anderson, accused TikTok in the lawsuit of a defective product and negligence, saying that her daughter had attempted the challenge after seeing a TikTok video and died of asphyxiation in December, 2021

Tik Tok’s algorithm was cited in the lawsuit as the reason Anderson discovered the challenge on her feed, the ‘For You Page’, and consequently died from the viral trend.

Participants of the viral “Blackout Challenge” would choke themselves by holding their breath or using household items to intentionally cut off oxygen to the brain and blackout.

TikTok and Bytedance did not immediately respond for comment, but issued a prior statement on the trend: “This disturbing challenge, which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform.”

Key Background

Nylah Anderson was discovered unconscious in her Philadelphia home in December 2021 after attempting the challenge. She succumbed to her injuries and died five days later in a pediatric intensive care unit. Experts have cautioned that the challenge can cause fainting, brain damage and seizures. TikTok responded to the series of blackout challenge related deaths by urging users to report videos promoting the challenge.

Surprising Fact

A 12-year-old Colorado boy, Joshua Haileyesus, died from the challenge in April 2021 after his twin brother discovered him with a shoelace around his neck. Haileyesus died after 19 days on life support.

Further Reading

TikTok Sued After 10-Year-Old Dies in Viral ‘Blackout Challenge’ (Bloomberg)

How TikTok Reads Your Mind (New York Times)

After girl, 10, dies from online challenge, family warns others (Today)

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