Parents Sue TikTok, Saying Children Died After Viewing ‘Blackout Challenge’

The suit, involving girls ages 8 and 9, claims TikTok knew or should have known that its product was “addictive” and was directing children to dangerous content.

The parents of two girls who said their children died as a result of a “blackout challenge” on TikTok are suing the company, claiming its algorithm intentionally served the children dangerous content that led to their deaths.

The girls were 8 and 9 when they died last year after viewing the challenge, which encouraged users to choke themselves until they passed out, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday in Superior Court in Los Angeles County.

The suit claims TikTok knew or should have known that its product was “addictive,” that it was directing children to harmful content and that it failed to take significant action to stop those videos or to warn children and parents about them.

The complaint cites in particular TikTok’s “For You” page, which the complaint says shows a stream of videos selected by an algorithm developed by TikTok that is based on a user’s demographic, “likes” and prior activity on the app. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

“TikTok needs to be held accountable for pushing deadly content to these two young girls,” said Matthew P. Bergman, founding lawyer of the Social Media Victims Law Center, a private law firm created in November to hold social media companies accountable for harming children.

A TikTok spokeswoman said the company would not comment on continuing litigation. But the spokeswoman referred to a statement from December, when it was “reported” that a mother from Pennsylvania said her 10-year-old daughter had died while trying the blackout challenge.

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