TikTok sued in US over deaths of young girls who performed the 'blackout challenge'

The platform should have done more to stop the spread, the lawsuit says. Photo credit: Getty Images

TikTok is being sued by the parents of two young children who died after taking part in a challenge that went viral on the social media platform.

Lalani Erika Walton, eight, and Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, nine, died after taking part in the 'blackout challenge', in which participants attempt to choke themselves to the point of unconsciousness.

The wrongful death lawsuits, filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, allege both girls died as a direct result of the challenge, with TikTok more concerned about maximising advertising revenue than safety.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lalani was an "avid TikToker" who posted singing and dancing videos in the hopes of going viral.

The lawsuit states that in July 2021, the platforms started showing the self-strangulation videos to the eight-year-old. Later that month bruises appeared on her neck which Lalani said were the result of a fall.

Following a 20-hour car ride with her stepmother, during which she had spent some of the time watching 'blackout challenge' videos, Lalani was found unresponsive in her bedroom.

The lawsuit says Lalani believed a video performing the blackout challenge would result in her becoming famous, but she didn't understand the "dangerous nature" of what TikTok was surfacing in her feed.

Arriani's use of TikTok was similar to Lalani's and she "became obsessive" about the app. Arriani's father found her unresponsive after her younger brother told him she wasn't moving.

She was rushed to hospital but all brain-functions had ceased and she was taken off life support.

Other children have also reportedly died as a result of the blackout challenge, according to reports.

"TikTok unquestionably knew that the deadly Blackout Challenge was spreading through their app and that their algorithm was specifically feeding the Blackout Challenge to children," the lawsuit states.

It says TikTok should have known that failing to take action to stop the spread would "result in more injuries and deaths, especially among children."

The blackout challenge is just one of a number that have gone viral on social media and video platforms over the years. That includes the milk challenge, the Tide Pod challenge and the cinnamon challenge.

Just last week, New Zealand-based Alex Ford, CEO of Socialike, said TikTok was a wolf in sheep's clothing and it should be removed from app stores in Aotearoa.

He told Newshub it was clear TikTok wasn't just a platform for teenagers to dance to their favourite songs and described it as "shady".

"Humans are sheep, we follow trends. So I think there needs to be more education and levels of regulation before these things are opened up to New Zealanders," he said.

"I think if Apple and Google stand up to them and remove TikTok from the app store, it's a step in the right direction."