TikTok sued by parents of girls accidentally hanged themselves Blackout Challenge clips algorithm


TikTok is sued by parents of girls aged 8 and 9 ‘who accidentally hanged themselves after being bombarded with ‘Blackout Challenge’ clips by app’s algorithm’

  • Parents whose daughters died attempting the Blackout Challenge suing TikTok
  • Lalani Erika Walton, 8, from Tennessee and Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, from Milwaukee died after trying to choke themselves until they became unconscious 
  • Alarming trend on TikTok urged kids to hold their breath till they pass out 
  • Despite making rounds on TikTok, the Blackout Challenge – also called ‘the fainting game,’ ‘game of choking’ or ‘speed dreaming’ – predates social media 
  • TikTok said videos promoting dangerous challenges violate their community guidelines and are actively removed when found
  • The company says its main app is intended for people 13 years or older, though it also operates a version of the app designed for younger users 

The families of eight and nine-year-old girls who died after ‘accidentally hanging’ themselves are suing the video platform alleging that the app’s algorithm recommended videos of the strangulation challenge to the young girls.

Lalani Erika Walton, 8, from Tennessee and Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, from Milwaukee died after trying to choke themselves until they became unconscious. 

The ‘blackout challenge’ encourages users to asphyxiate themselves, pass out and regain consciousness on camera. 

The wrongful death lawsuits were filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday.

Lalani Erika Walton, 8, from Tennessee died after trying to choke herself for a TikTok challenge

Lalani Erika Walton, 8, from Tennessee died after trying to choke herself for a TikTok challenge

Walton was found in her bedroom 'hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck

Walton was found in her bedroom ‘hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck

Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, from Milwaukee,  died doing the complete the Blackout Challenge

Arriani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, from Milwaukee,  died doing the complete the Blackout Challenge

Arroyo, from Milwaukee, was found 'hanging from the family dog's leash' in the basement of the family home

Arroyo, from Milwaukee, was found ‘hanging from the family dog’s leash’ in the basement of the family home

Walton was found in her bedroom ‘hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck.’ 

When police looked at her phone and tablet, they found she had been watching been watching blackout challenge videos ‘on repeat,’ according to the suit says.

Arroyo, from Milwaukee, was also found ‘hanging from the family dog’s leash’ in the basement of the family home. 

She was rushed to hospital and placed onto a ventilator but was found to be brain dead and had to be taken off life support.

Nylah Anderson, 10, an 'active' and 'incredibly intelligent' girl choked herself with a purse trap for a TikTok challenge, according to a lawsuit filed by her mother

Nylah Anderson, 10, an ‘active’ and ‘incredibly intelligent’ girl choked herself with a purse trap for a TikTok challenge, according to a lawsuit filed by her mother

Last year, another girl, Nylah Anderson of Philadelphia was found unconscious in her mom’s bedroom closet.

Similar to the other two girls, she hung herself from a purse strap after seeing videos related to the ‘blackout challenge’ on the app’s ‘For You’ page.

Nylah’s mother Tawainna said the company is to blame for her death because the content ‘was thrust in front of’ her. 

‘Nylah endured hellacious suffering as she struggled and fought for breath and slowly asphyxiated until near the point of death,’ the lawsuit states.

Tawainna found her daughter and tried multiple rounds of CPR on her until paramedics arrived.

Nylah Anderson, 10, was found unconscious in her mom's bedroom closet in December 2021

Nylah Anderson, 10, was found unconscious in her mom’s bedroom closet in December 2021

Nylah spent five days in the pediatric ICU and died on December 12, 2021.

Her family’s lawsuit, which asks for unspecified damages, holds TikTok accountable for designing an app that promotes dangerous challenges to children. 

The company says its main app is intended for people 13 years or older, though it also operates a version of the app designed for younger users. 

In a statement before either of the lawsuit were filed, the Chinese-owned company said: ‘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.

‘We remain vigilant in our commitment to user safety and would immediately remove related content if found.’

The company has blocked the hashtag #BlackoutChallenge from its search engine. 

But Nylah’s mother says the company intentionally designs its app to keep its young users’ attention at any costs.

The ‘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,’ the lawsuit states.

The Blackout Challenge was previously spread by word-of-mouth. However, online platforms have made information about the game more accessible and have led to more children trying it alone instead of with friends. 

‘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 Social Media Victims Law Center’s complaint claims.

‘The company knew or should have known that failing to take immediate and significant action to extinguish the spread of the deadly Blackout Challenge would result in more injuries and deaths, especially among children,’ the complaint reads.

There have been a number of disturbing challenges on social media in recent years.

In 2018, poison control officials warned parents about the Tide Pod Challenge, which encouraged youths to eat laundry detergent packets on camera and post it on social media

In 2018, poison control officials warned parents about the Tide Pod Challenge, which encouraged youths to eat laundry detergent packets on camera and post it on social media

In 2018, poison control officials warned parents about the Tide Pod Challenge, which encouraged youths to eat laundry detergent packets on camera and post it on social media.  

At least 10 deaths were connected to the challenge. 

The Salt and Ice Challenge gained popularity in 2019. It encouraged social media users to put ice on their exposed skin and then apply ice, holding it there for as long as they could tolerate.

The challenge left participants with second and third-degree burns. Some even required skin grafts to repair the damage. 

In 2020, fire marshals warned parents about the Outlet Challenge and Fire Challenge, both of which gained popularity on TikTok.  

The Outlet Challenge encouraged social media users to partially insert a plug into an outlet and then slide a penny down the wall onto the exposed prongs. This result in sparks, electrical system damage and, in some cases, a fire. 

Despite its recent resurgence on TikTok, the Blackout Challenge - also known as 'the fainting game', 'the game of choking' or 'speed dreaming' - predates social media

However, online platforms have made information about the game more accessible and have led to more children trying it alone instead of with friends

Despite its recent resurgence on TikTok, the Blackout Challenge – also known as ‘the fainting game’, ‘the game of choking’ or ‘speed dreaming’ – predates social media. However, online platforms have made information about the game more accessible and have led to more children trying it alone instead of with friends

The Fire Challenge, which was gaining traction on social media around the same time, involved people recording themselves as they poured flammable liquid on their skin and lit it.

And, just last week, another challenge surfaced. 

More than a dozen students nationwide were arrested after making copycat threats attributed to a ‘school shooting TikTok challenge’ following the deadly school massacre in Michigan last month. 

The vile challenge dared students to call in threats after 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley shot and killed four people at his high school in Oxford, Michigan. 

TikTok has publicly discouraged the trend. 

More than a dozen students nationwide were arrested in December 2021 after making copycat threats attributed to a 'school shooting TikTok challenge' following a deadly school massacre in Michigan

More than a dozen students nationwide were arrested in December 2021 after making copycat threats attributed to a ‘school shooting TikTok challenge’ following a deadly school massacre in Michigan

How to report the Blackout Challenge on TikTok

If you see anybody promoting the Blackout Challenge on TikTok or any other social media platforms, please report the content immediately.

To report the Blackout Challenge on TikTok:

Click on the white arrow on the right-hand side of the video.

Press the icon that says ‘report’ with a flag symbol.

Select ‘suicide, self-harm and dangerous acts’.

If anybody contacts you telling you to take part in the challenge, please do not reply and report the account immediately. 

Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) 

Also known as ‘the fainting game’, ‘the game of choking’ or ‘speed dreaming’, the trend challenges users to choke themselves until they pass out for a few seconds

Also known as ‘the fainting game’, ‘the game of choking’ or ‘speed dreaming’, the trend challenges users to choke themselves until they pass out for a few seconds

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