Los Angeles

TikTok being sued by parents of children who died attempting blackout challenge

Eight-year-old Lalani Walton and 9-year-old Arriani Arroyo are two little girls who tragically lost their attempting a social media challenge created on TikTok. 

Attorney Matthew Bergman, who is representing the families of Walton and Arroyo, is arguing that this was no coincidence. 

“You wouldn’t put your 16-year-old child in a car with 400 horsepower, no seatbelts and bad brakes, well it’s kind of the same thing,” Bergman said referring to the TikTok “blackout challenge.” “You wouldn’t put a child in a virtual environment such as TikTok that exposes them to such dangerous materials.”

Bergman’s six-month old Social Media Victims Law Center represents the families of the two girls – who died after attempting the so-called “blackout challenge,” where people are dared to choke themselves to unconsciousness.

A lawsuit on the families’ behalf was filed Friday in Los Angeles County against TikTok. The lawsuit alleges the app’s algorithms exploit users under 18 whose brains aren’t developed enough to control their impulses and emotions.

Bergman told CBSLA Reporter Laurie Perez that TikTok, which has its headquarter in Culver City and is owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, has hid the dangers to children and parents.

“They deliberately target children, even children under 13,” Bergman said. “They design products to be addictive and particularly addictive to children. We’re all in favor of parental responsibility but the problem is these social media products are intentionally designed to evade and thwart parental responsibility.”

Dangerous and destructive dares have appeared to be trending on TikTok before.

In April, a minor in Huntington Beach was cited by police for shooting another minor in the face with a gel water pellet – part of an online trend.

Students in Santa Clarita schools last year trashed bathrooms as part of a viral social media stunt.

TikTok’s terms and conditions require users to be at least 13 years old. The app does disclose the dangers of using the app for adolescents but Bergman believes the social network is not doing enough.

Bregman wants the site and others to moderate content based on age.

“It cannot be coincidental that so many children, 8, 9, 10 year old children that have been confronted with this blackout challenge,” he said. “What is it about the design of an algorithm that connects children to this kind of dangerous content and not elephants and moonbeams?”

File source

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