A Pennsylvania mother of a deceased 10-year-old girl is suing Chinese social media giant TikTok and its parent corporation related to her death from taking part in the “Blackout Challenge” that has become popular with children on the platform.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed last Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and names TikTok owner ByteDance as a co-defendant.
The case alleges that Nylah Anderson died last December after participating in the “Blackout Challenge,” which involves social media users attempting to hold their breath until they pass out.
Nylah allegedly reenacted the challenge as depicted in her mother’s bedroom closest, tragically hanging herself with a purse as shown in a video. The complaint alleges that she endured “hellacious suffering” as she struggled to free herself.
Nylah’s mother, Twainna Anderson, found her passed out and transported her to a local hospital. Nylah spent several days in pediatric intensive care before passing away from her injuries.
The lawsuit argues that TikTok and ByteDance were negligent in the matter and liable for a dangerous consumer product. The claim is that the platform has a “defective design” as defined by products liability law, in that its algorithm exposes young children to content that is dangerous to their health.
The complaint filed in the case states that the Blackout Challenge is “viral and deadly.” It says that the challenge was presented to Nylah on her “For You Page” on the TikTok app as a result of the software algorithm the platform uses to drive content to specific users.
The algorithm is alleged to have been designed to determine that the “deadly Blackout Challenge” was likely to be of interest to 10-year-old Nylah. In turn, it directed the content to her, leading to her death as a result.
TikTok issued a statement regarding Nylah’s death, describing the Blackout Challenge as “disturbing.” It said the challenge “long predates” the existence of the social media platform and has “never been a TikTok trend.” The statement added that people, apparently meaning to include Nylah, “seem to learn about” the Blackout Challenge from sources other than the Chinese company’s product.
TikTok said that its “deepest sympathies go out to the family for their tragic loss,” but it has not yet formally responded to the new lawsuit. No hearings in the case have been scheduled.