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Lawsuit Alleges Death Of 10-Year-Old Caused By TikTok "Blackout Challenge"

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockMay 16 2022, 12:16 UTC
The case alleges that TikTok and its parent company were negligent

The case alleges that TikTok and its parent company were negligent by allowing the algorithm to suggest the video to a 10-year-old. Image credit: Ascannio/shutterstock.com

A mother is suing TikTok and its parent company ByteDance for negligence in the case of her daughter's death allegedly being linked to one of the "challenges" that often go viral on the platform. 

Tawainna Anderson's wrongful death lawsuit alleges that her 10-year-old died after seeing the so-called "Blackout Challenge" on the platform, before falling unconscious while attempting the challenge herself. After five days of intensive care, she died on December 7, 2021. The lawsuit alleges that the app's "defective design" of its algorithm is to blame for exposing daughter Nylah to the content.

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"The viral and deadly TikTok Blackout Challenge was thrust in front of Nylah on her TikTok For You Page ... as a result of TikTok’s algorithm," the lawsuit seen by NBC News said.

"The TikTok Defendants’ 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."

As the name suggests, the challenge involves holding your breath or asphyxiating yourself in some other manner until you pass out. The suit alleges that there have been four other deaths attributed to the challenge, which involves people choking themselves with household items for a few seconds, and recording their supposedly euphoric reactions as they wake up. 

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As pretty much every medical expert will tell you, asphyxiation is very dangerous and can result in unconsciousness and death and is not recommended, especially for Internet "likes". 

"I want to hold this company accountable," Tawainna said at a press conference. "It is time that these dangerous challenges come to an end, that other families don't experience the heartbreak we live every day."

The "blackout challenge" has been shared on other platforms, the lawsuit says, but forensic analysis of her phone showed that she had seen the video on TikTok.

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TikTok has not commented on the case, but in a previous statement said that it was a "disturbing 'challenge,' which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend," adding that they are committed to removing content related to the "blackout challenge" from their platform.


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