TikTok faces lawsuit over 'blackout challenge' content

A 10-year-old died last year after allegedly undertaking the challenge.

·2 min read
Dado Ruvic / reuters

TikTok and parent company ByteDance have been accused of negligence after the death of a 10-year-old who allegedly attempted a challenge she saw on the app. According to the wrongful death suit, Nylah Anderson was found unconscious in her bedroom in Pennsylvania on December 7th. She was taken to hospital but died after five days in pediatric intensive care.

Nylah's mother Tawainna claimed her daughter attempted the "blackout challenge," which encourages people to hold their breath or otherwise asphyxiate themselves until they pass out. Nylah saw a video about the challenge on the For You page "as a result of TikTok's algorithm," the suit said, according to NBC News. "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."

"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."

“This disturbing ‘challenge,’ which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend," a TikTok spokesperson told Engadget in a statement. "We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family for their tragic loss.”

The deaths of several other children have been attributed to the challenge. In April 2021, 12-year-old Colorado boy Joshua Haileyesus died after being on life support for 19 days. His family claimed he attempted the challenge. Italy last year temporarily blocked TikTok for users who were unable to verify their age after the death of a girl who allegedly undertook the challenge.

In March, it emerged that a group of attorneys general is investigating TikTok over the potential harms that its app can cause to children and "what TikTok knew about those harms."